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 The Shared Vacation

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koalawoman
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PostSubject: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:29 am

PROLOGUE May 2010

She had loved this spot since the first moment she heard the water cascading over the falls, even though it had been winter then and the sounds were interspersed with the tinkle of falling icicles. Now the warmth of the mountain air caressed her skin and the scent of wildflowers assailed her, almost too heady in abundance.

Tomas picked his way carefully over the uneven ground, going slowly to give her a chance to maintain her balance and stopping when he reached the fallen log she had asked to have left for a seat, only a few yards from the swirling water. His coat was slightly damp from the mist, she found, when he curled up at her feet and she ran her hand over the long tawny coat that Goldens were so known for.
They made a good team, the woman and her guide dog, trained to act as one but they had developed a bond as well at a much deeper, loving level. He was her lifeline, her key to independence over the past year and a half and she loved the animal dearly.

She could picture the mist that rose from the river and the pool at the base of the falls, saw how it drifted on the light breeze and dissipated as it wafted over the fields of wildflowers that flowed down the slope into the valley below. The description Urs had given her was as clear as if she could see it through her own eyes, not just through what he had seen and remembered.

The memory of Urs was always very clear to her here, though they had never visited the falls in the spring or summer, only during that shared vacation in the winter, that long ago time that had to last her a lonely lifetime.

She sighed as she thought of all that had happened, the joys, the regrets, the pain and upper most in her mind here in this pleasant spot, the passion.

Like a slide show the photos she had taken of him during that 3 weeks flickered through her memory: lounging in one of the easy chairs, his long legs over the arm and his gaze intense on the magazine he was reading; working in the kitchen, trying to follow her instruction for making bread, managing to coat himself with flour and tiny flecks of bread dough in his enthusiasm; dressed in white camo coveralls as they went out on a shoot in the forest, his breath making clouds of vapor in the crisp air; his hair whirling as he lunged away from a snowball that Henri had thrown, his face dimpled in a huge grin and arm pulled back to retaliate with a large missile of snow; skiing full out, in flight off the top of a mogul, his expressive eyes hidden behind goggles but his mouth open in a grin at the joy he felt; Urs sleeping, peaceful, his arms over his head and his sculpted chest visible, vulnerable, sensual, strong; a series of shots of him raising his head to look at her in the firelight, rising and crossing to her, clearly intent on loving her as only he could, his eyes smoldering and his mouth curled in a gentle smile….She shivered with the pain and pleasure of the memories and filed them away. It was all she had left now but it was almost enough.

It had been a risk coming here, but one she felt strongly she had to take, just for a couple of days, long enough to draw from the joy that still lived in these walls though it had been nearly 3 years since last anyone stayed in the abandoned house. She needed to be here, to draw from the strength even this faint contact with him gave her, strength she would need in the days to come.

Last night she had tried to sleep in the bed where they had loved one another. Restless and unable to sleep, before dawn she had considered moving into the Lounge to rest on the old couch but discarded that notion as well, laughing ruefully. There were few surfaces in the house that didn’t hold a memory of their brief but intense love.

She slept for an hour and then as had been her habit for so many years woke with the rising sun to begin her day of reminiscing. She had managed to make coffee and sit on the veranda for an hour before Scarlett sensed that she was up and left Peter sleeping while she stumbled out of the other bedroom to join her. Millie, Colm and Sasha would join them in the afternoon and they would go on to the clinic in Bern together, the Fluffy Sisters reunited, perhaps for the last time. They had always been such good friends, not always agreeing with her decisions, sometimes rather vocally disagreeing but in the end they had always been there for her and now…well that was a bridge to cross when they reached Bern.

Tomas was restless and she rose to give him the command to return to the house, fitting her hand on the harness and starting back along the path, a slender figure with a short cap of mahogany curls, streaked at the temple with a swath of white, her skin porcelain pale and sprinkled with freckles, a vision of beauty in a soft, flowing white cotton dress that fluttered in the breeze, her bright green eyes gazing sightlessly at the beauty of the Swiss mountainside and the man who stood nearby, his chiseled face awash with tears as he watched her carefully returning to the house they had once shared.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:31 am

CHAPTER ONE December 27/ 2006

It was a typical squat farmhouse, one story above a stone foundation with a small veranda in the front and an added on mud room entrance at the back, sheltered around 2 sides and the driveway by tall conifers, heavily laden in this winter season with pillows of clean white snow. The whole structure was old but sturdy, made of thick logs and stone, a large stone fireplace at one end of the Lounge area, the two bedrooms on the other side reached through a short hallway that ended in a roomy linen closet, each bedroom with a full ensuite that had been added recently with all modern fixtures.

The Kitchen, Dining Area and Lounge were all one large room, divided off by a work counter in the Kitchen area and stools on the opposite side for conversation with a cook who could work at the stone counter or deep country sink, pulling supplies out of the many cupboards or the shiny new refrigerator freezer and matching blue enameled Aga cooker.

Someone had furnished the place without much verve, utilitarian pieces meant for renters use, heavy, worn, brown leather, large and a bit lumpy, still it was serviceable and the couch and chairs fronted on a hearth with storage for logs, an adequate fire screen and a thick hand knotted earth toned rug on the wood floor. The only real color was a multi toned knit throw on the back of the couch and the jackets of the few books in the case on the wall beside the hallway.

A transient house with great possibilities but at this moment in time not one that showed much personality.

Still Charlie loved it here, loved the openness and the privacy, the thoughts that if it became hers she would put her stamp on each square inch, would make it a place that people hated to leave.

It wasn’t until morning that she realized someone else had arrived during the night.

Not a burglar, she thought since they had luggage which still mostly stood in the entry, and rather too tidy for someone bent on robbing the place as evidenced by the coats neatly hung in the closet and boots tucked side by side under the coats on the rubber mat. A tall man and a shorter woman who likely now were sleeping in the second bedroom.

It was annoying, to say the least, but not the end of the world and she merely shrugged and went into the kitchen to start coffee and make toast, waiting for them to wake up and help sort out the mix up, smiling thankfully at her ingrained habit of locking her bedroom door at night… leaving it unlocked could have proven embarrassing.

By eight they still hadn’t put in an appearance and she could wait no longer, fast losing the early morning light that she loved so much and she returned to her room to don her layers of clothing against the cold outside, checked her camera bag for gear and her backpack for emergency supplies and went back through the lounge to leave a note by the coffee machine, shrug into her out- door coverall and she left the house through the back door, collecting her bear paws from the little mud room and locking the rear exit behind her.

It was crisp and cold, the sky clear of cloud, just the sort of day she loved and she hummed as she snapped her bear paws on and headed out over the snow at a brisk pace, smiling as she thought of the surprise awaiting her unexpected guests.

**

Urs was awake first, lay in bed for a few moments enjoying the first sleep-in he had been able to have for months. He glanced to his side to watch Olivia as she slept, smiling at the child-like look on her face, the stern control he so often saw there absent in repose. He was tempted to reach over and stroke his hand over her exposed shoulder but knew how she hated early morning intimacy so resisted.

In some things they were so dissimilar, yet for the most part they had related well, at least for the first 2 years. And of course they had the bond of music and logic on their side. She was very patient, never creating a scene when he had to be away for long periods of time, not often, at first, questioning him about any other relationships he may have had during his absence, although that did bother him in a way. Did it mean she cared so superficially that jealousy wasn’t part of her makeup?…or was she merely very trusting, knowing that he was committed to their relationship and would return to her? It was at odds with the possessive way she reacted sometimes to the adoration of the fans, glaring at them with her arms folded across her chest though they had been careful to protect her identity and not many realized who she really was.

He slid quietly out of the bed and used the facilities then headed out of the room clutching his jeans and a tee shirt in his hands as he headed for the kitchen and what he thought was the comfort of coffee, likely made with an automatic machine on a timer. What a thoughtful gesture by their landlord.

He had poured half of his mug full before he noticed the slip of paper with a note scrawled in pencil.

“Surprise!!!

It seems that the rental agent has rented you the property in which I have already been installed for the past 2 weeks. My contract has another six weeks to run and though I don’t mind sharing since I am seldom at home, you may have concerns.

I will be gone all day as I am most days. If you are still here in the evening we will talk about the mix-up…if you have managed to straighten the mess out and moved on, then have a lovely vacation…it was nice almost meeting you both.

Charlie

P.S. Feel free to use any of the supplies you find in the larder or frig. The bread, I’m afraid is two days old since I was lazy yesterday and didn’t get around to baking. Sorry ….C”

He finished pouring his coffee and strode to the Lounge windows to look out over the expanse of snow that ran up to the trees on the foothills.

The first day of his vacation and already he had something to solve. How could the agent have been so inefficient? This man, this Charlie, sounded quite reasonable but the idea had been to get away from everyone, to rest and relax and see if he and Olivia could rekindle the fading spark of their relationship. That would be impossible with a third party lurking, how-ever briefly.

He searched for and found his mobile phone and keyed in the rental agent’s number, determined to sort out the mix- up before Livi woke up.

**

In spite of the many layers of clothing Charlie was cold, slightly damp and tired when she spotted the lights of the house in the valley below her. She switched off her head lamp and busied herself tucking it into a pocket of her white camo coverall while she jogged with slightly spread legs down the last remaining hill to the house, her bear paw snow shoes sinking only a scant inch into the crust on the drifts.

Some nice hot soup and a nestle under one of the thick throws in front of the fire appealed to her right now, but the thoughts of her uninvited guests intruded and she wished fervently that they had sorted out the problem and were gone.

As she got closer she realized that the car was gone and her hopes rose. This morning when she had looked back from the top of the first rise she had spotted a sleek black Audi parked in front of the house…her Jeep was behind the house, safely stowed in the garage, actually snowbound since she hadn’t bothered to have the path cleared that far.

She leaned against the back door, grateful to be back, then opened it and stepped into the small entry and unclipped her bear paws, clapped them together to remove the excess snow and hung them on hooks to dry. It took a few minutes to get out of most of her gear but finally she strode in her heavy thermal socks into the Kitchen, deposited her gear bag and back pack on the table and glanced around.

Everything was tidy and clean but she could tell that they had used the kitchen for at least one meal. The coffee machine was loaded, ready to go again and she clicked it on, went in the Lounge to light the fire in the large stone fireplace and replaced the screen to look around.

There was a fashion magazine on the coffee table, that was new, and when she raised her head to look in the hall she saw that the luggage was gone but two pair of slippers sat near the closet. Obviously her ‘Guests’ were not present but still in residence. She sighed and went back for her coffee, nuked a large bowl of the soup she had concocted yesterday and when it was ready took both mug and bowl to the Lounge to sit on the floor with her back against the sofa to eat and slowly thaw out.

This was a work/holiday for her, some volunteer work she had opted to do for the World Wildlife Federation. Her work as a Nature photographer kept her crazy busy most of the year, in fact it had been two years since she took any real time off. Most people didn’t realize what a solitary, physical occupation Nature photography was, didn’t understand the literal hours spent motionless waiting for just that right shot, the travel involved, and usually not just in comfortable tourist type of style. She had been spit at by llamas, stung by irritated scorpions, squeezed by a fortunately young boa, lost only the heel of her boot in a close crocodile encounter and charged by an enraged bull elephant…. And those were just the close calls. She didn’t like to remember the few broken bones and injuries that had required brief hospital stays. Above anything else she hated being confined to a hospital.

But it had been worth every scare, every drop of lost blood. She couldn’t imagine doing anything else with her life, with this ‘eye’ she had for photos that enthralled, informed, captured the hearts of those who saw them.

Today had been a good day. She had tracked and found the den where a litter of kits snuggled against their silver grey wolf mother, didn’t disturb them but waited patiently while the bitch circled, growling and the sire postured aggressively then settled in an attitude of alert at the mouth of his home. After 5 hours of silence and immobility she was rewarded with the sight of a tiny black nose peeking out of the opening as curiosity got the better of one of the cubs and he crept out to peek at this strange beast he could smell. It was a brief glimpse but enough and she rapidly caught his craned neck look on film, caught the swiftness of the sire as he snarled at the cub and drove him cowering back inside then resumed his stance. It took another hour of careful movement to leave the area before she could back track towards the house, taking filler photos of scenery, a lucky shot of a rabbit skittering across the snow to evade an eagle, to no avail as the swift predator stooked and flew away with his lunch.

She finished her soup and pulled the throw off the sofa to cover her still cold body, leaned back with her head on the cushion and fell asleep.

**

It was late when Urs and Olivia arrived back at the house after spending the day skiing then going on to have a lovely dinner in a fine restaurant. He was hoping that in the privacy of the house they could talk about the distance between them, perhaps even enjoy some of the old familiar intimacy that they had known when they first met, over 3 years before.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:31 am

There were lights on in the house when they pulled into the drive, no doubt left on by the other occupant. His calls to the rental agent had been unsuccessful so far. The man was mortified that such a thing could have happened, had no believable excuse other than a new secretary and had promised to scour the surrounding area for an alternative. Since that conversation early in the day there had been no further word.

They entered quietly, in case the other person, this Charlie, was sleeping, took off coats and boots in the entry and Urs headed for the Lounge while Livi made a dash for the bathroom.

He almost tripped over the small woman sitting on the floor with her head on the sofa, either sleeping or dead, she was so still.

Yes, sleeping, he thought as he crouched and leaning closer saw her chest gently rise and fall. A pretty little thing, was his next thought and he curbed it quickly…but she was: shoulder length wavy mahogany hair, porcelain skin with just a hint of windburn, full, bright pink lips…no makeup. She seemed to be wearing several layers of thick clothing, as if prepared to be outside for a long period, heavy wool socks stuck out from under the edge of the red and brown sofa throw, grey socks, with beige toes and heels, like workmen wore in their heavy boots.

“Charlie?” he questioned softly and she stirred but didn’t wake.

“Charlie? Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in your bed?”

Charlie opened her eyes and stared into the most amazing amber eyes she had ever seen.

She shook herself, making her hair toss and the throw to slip off her body to pool in her lap, and laughed a bit, her smile lighting up the depths of large, bright green eyes.

“Didn’t mean to fall asleep. It took forever to warm up today and I guess I drifted off.”

Urs nodded and smiled at her, thinking how nice it was to see such a pretty woman wake in a good mood.

Charlie laughed and raised her hand to push gently at his chest.

“I would get up, but you seem to be hovering,” she teased and he laughed and stood, holding his hand out to help her to her feet.

She rose, taking the throw with her and folding it neatly to drop on the back of the sofa before turning to face Urs again.

“So you must be my unknowing house guest. I’m Charmaine Perkins, better known as Charlie to my friends or Perk to those who want to live dangerously. And I believe you’re Urs Buhler…does that mean that your partner in this adventure is none other than the elusive Olivia that all the fans are dying to see pictures of?”

Urs laughed and grimaced.

“Well that didn’t take long to blow our cover. Yes, Livi is in the ladies. I called the agent and he was very apologetic, promised to see what he could do and I haven’t heard anything since. So if you don’t mind it seems our only choices are to stay another night or try to find a Hotel.”

Charlie had picked up her mug and bowl and was heading for the Kitchen while he followed behind but she turned and shook her head at him.

“Don’t be silly. Of course you’re welcome to stay. I’m seldom here…and if you check into a hotel, if you can find room at this time of year, within half an hour the paparazzi and fans will be in the lobby.”

She busied herself cleaning up the slight mess and few dishes then turned to find him seated at the counter, sipping on a mug of coffee he had helped himself to. He was about to say something when Olivia came through from the bedroom.

Urs introduced them and saw the look Livi gave the smaller woman as she sized her up and then came to possessively put her arm around his waist.

“Are you here on holiday too, Miss Perkins?” Livi said, her tone and formality making it clear that she was not looking for a friend.

Charlie smiled slightly at the aggressive stance and tone and, now warmed up, began stripping off some of the excess layers of clothing while she answered.

“Sort of…it’s a working holiday for me which is why I’m out most of the day. I’m a photographer….no, no, don’t panic,” she laughed when she heard Urs groan. “……a NATURE photographer and I’m doing a bit for the World Wildlife Federation…plus it’s my first holiday in 2 years and since I come from Northern Canada I love the snow and cold. I had planned on using the second bedroom as a studio for developing but it’s far too cold so I’ve rented space and equipment in Lucerne and go in once in a while to develop what I’ve taken.”

She had taken off two heavy sweaters, the thick socks, thick wool slacks and a pair of soft flannel pants, now stood much more comfortably in black tights, black socks and a long sleeved black tee shirt. She folded her excess clothing and set it on a chair by the entry door ready for the morrow.

“Would you care for some coffee, Olivia, or perhaps some wine?…I have a rather nice white on ice and an excellent Merlot in the cabinet.” She made a point of using the older woman’s first name, ignoring the slightly cool attitude and just being herself.

There was no warmth whatsoever in the French woman’s eyes as she took in the trim figure now revealed in front of her. Charlie was shorter than Livi, only about 5 foot 3 in her sock feet and younger, probably no more than 28, small boned but toned and well formed…abundant chest, small waist and flat stomach, rounded hips and a firm bottom, longish sculpted legs for such a short body and straight shoulders arching up a firm neck to an oval face with vivid green eyes and a slight scattering of freckles, a cap of mussed mahogany red hair that tangled and waved to her shoulders…not Urs type at all and Livi relaxed a bit.

“No thank you…it’s been a tiring day. I think I will retire. Coming Urs?” she turned to look at him issuing more of a command than a question and he stubbornly refused to comply.

“Go ahead…I’ll be along shortly.”

She glared at him and he groaned inwardly knowing that he would pay, just as he did for his comment about Catherine Zeta Jones early in his career with Il Divo.

Charlie pulled a stool around to the opposite side of the counter and perched on it, leaning on her elbows and sipping on the cup of coffee she had just poured.

“I really am sorry about this. I would leave since I know how precious privacy is for someone in your position but this is the perfect spot for my work…undisturbed, pristine, close to the hills and the forest so I can track the animals I need to photograph. If they don’t find you another house, all I can promise is to give you as much privacy as possible and of course to keep quiet to the press about your where-abouts.”

He looked up at her from his perusal of his coffee and smiled.

“Thank you. It must be a little dangerous for someone so small to go out in the wild. Don’t you ever get frightened?”

Charlie laughed. “Only after …..sometimes when I’ve had a close call I shake so bad I can’t even stand up but I guess I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie…I keep going back…and I don’t blame the animals. After all I’m the intruder and they’re merely defending their territory.”

“That must be the same as I feel sometimes at the concerts…most of the fans are very avid but respectful but occasionally you get one who goes overboard and they scare me. We’ve all been grabbed rather inappropriately and it’s hard to appear unconcerned when that happens.”

Charlie laughed at the flush that came to his face.

“Then you never want to see the photo-shopped pictures some of the fans send around privately. Very talented with cut and paste, some of those gals.”

His face was really flushed now and she decided to stop teasing him.

“Seriously, I think your fan base is so broad because there’s nothing about the four of you to not like. You’re clean cut, no scandals, lovely voices and great track choices that people can actually sing along to. And you are all so approachable. It’s just so different from some of the grunge and smut and bad publicity that a lot of the modern groups always seem to stir up.”

“Are you going out early again tomorrow?” he asked in an effort to change the subject and stop his face from getting redder.

“Yes…early morning is the best time and I want to take some sunrise shots if the cloud cover is the same as today. I likely won’t be back until dark again.”

“And what if the weather changes?”

“No problem…I’ve taken several survival courses and have a perfectly adequate survival kit I always pack with me. What about you and Olivia…more skiing?”

“Maybe…I think she wants to shop in Lucerne too.”

They heard the bedroom door slam shut once more, a noisy hint that someone was fast losing her temper.

Urs stood and went to rinse out his mug but Charlie took it and nodded her head towards the bedroom.

“Go. I’ll just tidy up and get the coffee ready for morning. Good night, Urs. Pleasant dreams.”

He paused and rested his large hand on her shoulder for a moment, looked like he was about to say something but merely said good night and left her.

Charlie cleaned up, thought about her guests and decided that it could be an interesting few days. She thought about going online and chatting with Millie and Scarlett but was just too wiped out. Anyway, maybe tomorrow there would be more to tell them.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:32 am

CHAPTER TWO

It was a long time before Charlie got to sleep. For a while after she changed and got into bed she could hear the murmur of voices coming from the other bedroom, then the sound of something hitting the wall and smashing and Livi’s voice getting louder, more strident, the deep rumble of Urs when he responded infrequently. There was the sharp sound of a blow, repeated again and she winced, knowing it was Livi slapping Urs, knowing as well that he would never respond in kind…he wasn’t the sort of man who would ever condone striking a woman, no matter what the provocation.

Charlie sat up in bed when the screamed words came clearly through the walls.

“GET OUT!!! GET OUT, YOU FREAK!!! YOU’LL NEVER AGAIN TRY TO STUFF THAT BIG P***K YOU’RE SO PROUD OF INSIDE OF ME!!! IT MAKES ME GAG TO EVEN SEE IT!! JUST GET OUT AND DON’T TOUCH ME AGAIN!!”

She gasped at the hurtful words, knew that they were probably said in anger but would cause him pain, especially if he thought she could hear. She wanted desperately to go to him, to offer comfort but knew that her presence would only make matters worse so sat with her knees pulled up, hugging them tightly and resting her cheek on the bent legs, feeling despair at being so powerless to help.

There was the muffled sound of the bedroom door opening and closing and finally the sound of defeated footsteps in the hall. She thought about finding him an extra pillow and blanket from the hall closet but thought that it would embarrass him so didn’t. The woman certainly had a temper, something that Charlie had as well but over the years had learned to be very selective about unleashing.

For a while after she curled up under her duvet again and lay suffering for him, for both of them really since she hated to see anyone in misery. There was only the sound of weeping coming from the other bedroom and the soft footfalls of someone pacing in the Lounge, moving with athletic grace that was just barely audible. Then the house grew silent except for the occasional creak of the old timbers and a soft soughing of a breeze through the trees around the building.

The quiet soothed her and she fell into a deep dreamless sleep, waking to the scent of coffee brewing, showered quickly and padded bare foot into the Kitchen to find Urs on one of the stools, nursing a fresh coffee and reading a magazine about motorcycles.

“Good morning….. nothing smells better in the morning than coffee…except maybe hot chocolate,” she said as she joined him and he put the magazine away.

“Please, don’t let me interrupt you. I tend to be chatty first thing…I guess because I spend so much of the rest of the day alone.”

He laughed and nodded. “I love the mornings. Everything is so peaceful and new…a fresh start. So what are you tracking today?”

“Don’t know…whatever I run across I guess….there are some lovely vistas from the second hill over, of the valley and a nice waterfall, sort of half frozen with these long icicles …if the sun is at the right angle they look like long diamonds.”

“I know just where you mean…It’s beautiful in the summer too with all the meadow flowers and the cascade creates a mist that hovers about 10 feet above the water. I’ve seen rainbows in the mist a few times.”

Charlie looked at him in surprise.

“Here I was thinking you were a city boy now. Sounds like you still enjoy hiking.”

“Very much. I used to do it a lot but lately…well there just hasn’t been the time for a lot of the things I used to do.”

Charlie caught the sound of regret in his voice and reached across the counter to take his hand, a tactile person, she thought nothing of touching someone in friendship, wasn’t consciously aware of the healing and comfort in the soft touch of another human.

“Hang in there, my friend. Your life will settle once you guys are established and you can get back to living a more normal lifestyle. And it will be worth it in the long run.”

He turned his hand to clasp hers, stunned at the feelings sweeping through him and he raised his eyes to capture hers.

She felt it too, this tingling that contact had caused and slowly drew her hand back, looking down and taking a sip of her coffee.

“Every couple goes through periods of stress, Urs. It will pass.”

“You heard us last night.”

“I’m sorry. Sound carries in this place.”

He looked down for a moment then spoke softly.

“I guess I loved her in the beginning. We seemed so suited for each other…. But now…I just don’t know anymore….am I different? Is Olivia? For the past year I’ve felt like we were just together from habit, like we were putting in time. It’s almost a relief to leave on the tours to get away from the arguing, the coldness in…..” he stopped, not willing to reveal more than he had, not even sure why he was telling this comparative stranger more than he had admitted to his close friends.

Charlie rose and took her mug to the sink to rinse, collected her thermos from the back pack and began to make a pitcher of hot chocolate to pour into it.

She came back to the counter and stared at him unsmiling for a moment.

“I don’t know you, not really, Urs, just the public persona you choose to let us see. But I do know that people change, evolve all through their lives and sometimes they don’t take the same paths. Perhaps that’s what happened with you and Olivia, I don’t know. I do know it’s no-ones fault and that it makes both parties miserable if you try to hang on to something that no longer exists.”

The kettle whistled at her and she made her drink then poured the steaming liquid into the thermos and closed the lid tightly.

“I have to go before I lose the light.”

He watched as she began donning the layers of clothing, checked her back pack and her gear and went in the mud room to don her white camo coverall and boots.

Just before she reached for her bear paws he smiled and gave her a hug.

“Hugging you when you have all this on is like being up close and personal with a very short bear. How do you ever move in it?”

She laughed and looked up at him.

“Practice, my friend, lots of practice.”

He leaned over and kissed her smiling mouth lightly, a friendly kiss of thanks for being a sounding board, a new friend, then stood back and watched again as she stepped out, drew her back pack high on her shoulders and her smaller gear bag onto her chest, snapped her feet into the bear paws and waved at him as she started out, going smoothly at a rapid pace, her head lamp showing the trail for now, until the sun rose.

He closed the door and turned to find Livi behind him, tapping her foot as she glared.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:33 am

CHAPTER THREE


Charlie removed her head lamp when she got to the vantage point she wanted for the sunrise photos and made a little seat in some hard packed snow to rest and set up her cameras. She decided on the Nikkon for the rapid shots she would need to capture the swiftly changing horizon, set the focus and replaced the lens cap against the possibility of wind driven flurries.

Her thoughts went back to the early morning conversation with Urs and how unhappy he seemed to be. The break-up of a long term relationship was always a sad time, god knew she had been through a couple herself but it was possible to survive and become a more complete person because of it. She was still friends with the two men she had ended relationships with, each lasting only a few months due to lack of any real passion and her hectic schedule…one was now happily married, the other playing the field but she still got chatty e.mails from both of them and they went for drinks whenever their schedules permitted. Somehow she doubted whether the same would happen with Urs and his Livi.

And now was definitely not the time to fan any incipient flames that she herself had long imagined for the gorgeous Swiss tenor. He had always been her favorite, in fact had been the reason for the close friendship that had developed with Millie and Scarlet, two more of his fans. They could spend hours talking about him, trading photos back and forth, talking about sightings, but always with the respect that was his due.

Part of the attraction was that Il Divo and Urs Buhler in particular had brought about changes in their lives, changes that they all thought long past them, a sense of hope that life did not have to remain in the same rut, the same defeated, dull routine that dragged them down further every day.

She remembered so clearly the first time she had heard them. It had been right about the time that she had come back from photographing the seal hunt. Sickened from what she had seen, depressed due the recent death of her beloved grandfather and ready to pack in her photographic career after failing to do her job on the hunt….it had just been too vile and for the first time she had left her work unfinished. Then she found a lump and it was her undoing.

For a brief time she lost herself in the depths of a friendly bottle of wine, actually several bottles, while she considered the drab years ahead of her with despair. And she walked past a music store on her way to yet another pub, wondering if booze and pills were a painless way to go and heard Il Divo singing. Regressa a mi pulled her in. Nella Fantasia made her cry for hours, Passera helped to start the healing process and A mi Manera was sung just for her.

From there she began going to concerts when they were accessible to her travel plans and her life took an upswing. She went under the knife and found out that the tiny lump was benign, stopped drinking, thought about Gramps often with love, keeping his memory alive, and made plans to go back to the seal hunt the next year. Now, except for a more or less non existent love life, her days were full, happy, her outlook cheerful and full of hope. And all because she had listened to some music.

Charlie smiled as she thought of it and pulled her camera from the gear, the glint of a sunrise just beginning to appear. She began shooting, soon lost in the thrall that this chosen profession thrust upon her.

**

Urs returned from Lucerne in the early afternoon, alone. It had been a silent trip both ways, Olivia not speaking to him once during the trip though he had tried several times to get her to talk, tried to soothe her so that they could at the least part friends but she refused to discuss it and he finally accepted her silence, finding it better than the screaming she had done at the house, the unfounded accusations.

It was over and in a way it was a relief though there was a feeling of failure that made him sad. Perhaps he could have done more…perhaps if he had insisted she come on all the tours with him, but then she had been adamant about remaining at home so much of the time.

He parked and went in the house, not in the mood to ski, just wanting some peace and quiet to get his thoughts together. He rummaged in the liquor cabinet until he found a part bottle of vodka, poured a stiff shot and downed it, looked at the bottle and put it away.

He lay on the sofa for a while, grew cold in the quiet chill of the house with the temperature of the thermostat set for everyone being out, pulled the throw over himself and fell into restless sleep.

**

There were no lights on in the house when she returned and she was surprised to find that she felt a slight disappointment. She had enjoyed the brief contact with the Swiss tenor…his friend was another matter but that was not an insurmountable problem. Still she considered herself lucky to have had a few moments to interact privately with him, much more than most fans did.

But then, she thought as she climbed the back steps to the door and fished her keys out of a pocket by means of the leather thong that kept them secure, she was more than just a fan. She had admitted to herself more than 6 months before that she loved the Swiss tenor with a purity of heart and a passion she hadn’t known was possible.

It would be an unrequited love, she had known that from the start, had come to accept it as a given and until this morning had been prepared to worship from afar. Now it was even more difficult…they had connected intellectually, even physically though with the briefest and most innocent of touches…. the distance between Urs and Olivia was apparent…even if resolved, he would be wounded and too vulnerable for any kind of realistic new relationship. She would have to be careful, tread the fine line between compassion and carnal convenience, not wanting the guilt of interfering between the ill-matched couple to weigh on her when he moved on.

She entered the mud room and disrobed down to her usual tights and tee shirt, today a dark grey set, stepped into the kitchen, reset the thermostat and knew almost instinctively that someone was still here.

One quick glance in the Lounge confirmed it…he was laying stretched out on the sofa, quietly sleeping, looking young and innocent in the reflection from the fireplace, long lashes softly resting on his cheeks, the throw pulled up to his shoulders and both feet sticking out at the bottom. It was so tempting to ease into the room and touch him while he slept, to feel that silky hair run through her fingers, to lay her hand on his chest and match her heart beat to his….she shivered and clamped down firmly on her rampant urges.

Charlie tip toed to the hall and looked in the closet where Urs had stored their empty luggage. The light blue set was gone, as well as Olivia’s coat and boots. Well that hadn’t been much of a surprise, not after what she had heard last night.

She looked back at the sleeping man and felt a pang of sympathy. No matter if he had known it was coming it would still have devastated him. He was sensitive and caring, she knew from the nearly constant inspection of his every word, every movement at concerts, the personal contacts of other fans who faithfully reported on the forum, more accurately the dear friends who had spent precious time with him, with the real Urs, not the public persona.

Quietly she went to the kitchen again and made a large thermos of hot chocolate, opened the liquor cabinet to search for a few ingredients and poured generous amounts in two mugs, {a much more generous amount in one}, topped them up with hot chocolate and carried them carefully in to the Lounge to set them on the low coffee table. She knelt on the floor beside his head and stroked her small hand gently over his cheek, brushing a few strands of hair back to tuck them behind his ear.

“Hey sleepyhead…wake up and smell the hot chocolate,” she teased lightly, leaving her hand on his cheek, laughing a bit when he smiled and turned his face to breathe in the scent of her.

“You smell like snow and trees,” he said as he opened his eyes. She could see the lingering pain in the amber depths and it saddened her but she shrugged it off, knowing that this was something she knew how to cope with and he would too, given time.

He moved to sit up and she sat back, watching as he swung his feet to the floor beside her and rested his face in his hands, his arms propped up on his knees. As if trying to physically change his mood he rubbed his long fingers over his face and drew in a deep breath.

“She’s gone, Charlie. She was so angry, I couldn’t let her drive so I took her to Lucerne and she’s gone…it’s over.”

“I know honey, I know…here get this into you… guaranteed to make you feel better.”

He took the mug and sniffed the contents, recognized the chocolate but not the rest and looked at her over the brim of the mug.

“What is it?”

“Oh Ye of little faith…just trust your Aunt Charlie and drink it…this is a one time offer of total, blind intoxication, offer never to be repeated. Tomorrow you can work on getting your life back on track but tonight ….tonight we get plastered.”

He watched her eyes for a moment then grinned, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Why not? Bottoms up, my little Aunt Charlie.”

**

Two hours later, part way through her second, his fourth hot chocolate-Swiss Bliss, Charlie got slowly and carefully to her feet and crossed the room to flick through her CD rack and select a CD. Urs continued the conversation he had been having with her, or rather at her, having talked non-stop for the last 10 minutes without a break.

She snickered as she thought that he hadn’t even realized she was gone until the music blared out of the speakers and he leapt to his feet ….. ACDC in full metal assault shrieked out ‘Thunderstruck’, much to his delight and he sang along with them, dancing and playing air guitar, then sweeping Charlie off her feet in a wild dance that he seemed to be inventing on the spot. The CD changed to another ACDC track, then another and he flowed from one to the other never missing a beat until she was breathless from the dancing and hoped he would soon run out of energy.

The compilation of songs produced an ALW track now, from Phantom of the Opera, Think of Me and he swept her into a smooth waltz without a moment of hesitation. It was one of her favorites, the sentiment beautiful and as always she wished she had the voice to sing it. As if sensing her thoughts he sang along with the track and she felt like crying at the beauty and longing in his voice.

Suddenly he decided to dance to his own music and gathered her roughly into his arms and danced slowly to something only he could hear, molding her against him and swaying, hardly moving his feet at all. She knew he was crying before she felt the tears on her head and nestled closer to him, giving what little comfort and privacy she could, letting him have the catharsis of tears to start the healing. After 10 minutes of less and less movement but still intense embracing she raised her head from his chest and looked up at his face. His eyes were closed and his face looked pale but peaceful.

“Urs?”

“MMMMMMMh?” he answered without opening his eyes.

“Who am I?”

His eyes slowly opened and his mouth curved in a smile.

“Is this a test? It’s a silly one unless somehow you can’t remember…. You’re my friend, Charlie. Why, who did you think you were?”

She chuckled.

“Just checking…I was afraid you were so plastered you might think I was Olivia.”

He shook his head, over and over as if once he had started he couldn’t stop. She reached up and gripped his face on both sides, twining her fingers in his hair, stopping the frantic movement.

“You’re nothing like her… not sure you’re even the same species. She would never have danced pressed against me like this…. Her breasts didn’t squish into my chest….” He trailed his hands over her to prove his point. “Does it embarrass you to feel how aroused holding you makes me? Livi would be and angry. I don’t want to talk about her anymore. I want to make love with you…will you let me?”

Charlie smiled at him and though her heart leapt at the offer, she shook her head.

“My friend, I’m not sure you could even perform in your condition. Let’s wait for another time.”

He considered it for a moment then hugged her and laughed.

“Okay…. But you must understand that I could… if you wanted to…. But you don’t…Let’s have just one more drink, then go to bed…just to sleep…. I promise I won’t touch you…but I could…I’m always ready…. She just never wanted me lately…..Mein Gott , Charlie, no one wants me…what am I going to do?”

Charlie fought off the fuzzies and stood on her tip toes to kiss him softly.

“You’re going to have another drink with me and then if you still want me… we’ll see.” ‘We’ll see how much will power I have,’ she said silently to her traitorous body.

She fixed him another drink and, in self defense since he was much too heavy for her to manage if he crashed, convinced him that it was warmer and cozier in the bedroom. They supported each other into the dimly lit room and sat on the edge of the bed, sipping at his new drink, the remnants of hers.

“I knew it was over…the last few times I tried to get her to come with me she wouldn’t. Kept finding excuses. And when we made love it was so mechanical, not real joy. I knew, but I didn’t want to fail. And now it’s over. And I feel guilty because I’m relieved. The past year we’ve been living a lie. We should have talked, should have stayed friends.”

He was silently weeping again and Charlie took the glass from his hand and pushed him gently back on the bed, snuggling next to him with his head on her shoulder, just listening and being there, a warm body that cared.

He stopped talking mid-sentence and after a few minutes she sat up and smiled at his peaceful face. She stood and took off his shoes and socks, struggled with his skin-tight jeans but finally managed, sat him up and pulled his shirt off over his head and folded the duvet back on one side of the bed, then rolled him, wearing only his shorts, onto the sheet.

He was like a rag doll as she tended to him, giggled a bit once when she touched his feet…something to file away for another day…ticklish feet… but he didn’t wake. She finished getting him into bed, pulled the cover up to his neck and eased it around him gently. He looked so young and vulnerable, laying on his side, one long fingered hand on the pillow beside his face. She brushed his hair back away from his cheek, thinking about him dancing with such abandon, about him weeping silently and her heart constricted, a lump forming in her throat.

He would get over this but it would take time. She wondered if now he would leave, if the memory of being here even for a short time with Olivia would be too painful and it made her sigh. Nothing else would ever come of this fleeting meeting with him but she hoped that he would at least stay for a few days, allow her to get to know him better, let her stockpile memories for the long, lonely years ahead.

With a sigh she left the room, leaving the door ajar in case he needed anything and went to her room to her own empty bed, leaving her door ajar as well. She quickly shucked her clothing down to a cotton vest and panties and slid into bed, snuggling into the pillow, her head a bit fuzzy from unaccustomed drinking.

That was the last movement she was conscious of until morning.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:34 am

CHAPTER FOUR


Charlie woke up at her usual time and pulled the pillow over her head, not ready to face the day. After a few minutes she realized that it was useless to fight her body’s habit driven clock and rose to shower and dress.

She laughed silently as she thought of last night, how the more she had offered of the extra stiff drinks to Urs, the more uninhibited he became. He had danced with her until she lost her breath and couldn’t stand for a while, then continued to dance alone, so into the music from his youth that he became a different person. He danced a smooth, breathtaking waltz with her, then gathered her into his arms and danced to music only he could hear, soft, slow music that fit with his sadness and he wept while she held his tense body close and comforted him as best she could.

She peeked past his open bedroom door as she headed for the kitchen, saw him still sleeping peacefully and smiled at the sprawled out body, the covers wound around him and one foot dangling over the edge, his long hair spread in a dark silken tangle of curls over the pillow, the muscles of his back sculpted and well defined as he slept on his stomach. He was one fine specimen of man, that was without question.

She sighed and went on to the kitchen, thinking about her day and glancing out the window at the half darkness still on the world.

Her outdoor clothing was still folded neatly on the chair by the door and she shook her head, knowing that after a night of indulging it wouldn’t be safe for her to attempt a day of tracking. She would go in to the lab and work on the film she already had.

While the coffee brewed she tidied the Lounge, then wrote him a note. She filled her thermos and put it with her camera bag. She set up the coffee machine for him, wishing once again that she had brought a French Press with her instead of having to use this machine and poured coffee into her travel mug for the trip to town.

By 6:15, when the sun was trying to pierce through an overcast sky, she had shoveled enough of the snow from the garage doors to ease Jessie out and was on her way into Lucerne.

**
Urs woke in his bed, alone and the memory of yesterday came back to hit him with a devastating force. He was still for a moment, wondering how he had managed to get in the room and fold the clothing he saw neatly placed on the end of the dresser. Most of the evening was a blur of disconnected images,

He remembered the argument and the trip into Lucerne, coming back and some fuzzy memories of drinking hot chocolate with Charlie, some music that he hadn’t listened to for a long time and dancing….DANCING???

He laughed a bit and sat up, grabbed his head as it tried to detach from his body and moaned as he sat on the edge of the bed trying to subdue the dizziness that threatened to overcome him. There was more to that chocolate drink than he had remembered…..now it came back to him…Swiss Bliss…wasn’t that the drink that his two favorite fans had invented last year?

Whatever was in it he didn’t remember ever being as wobbly on his feet before as he was today. He managed with great effort to get upright and staggered a bit as he made his way into the bathroom to attend to some very pressing needs, washed his hands and after a quick glance, refused to look in the mirror again.

An empty bladder made him feel a bit more comfortable and he slowly pulled on his jeans, forgoing a shower until he was a little steadier, grabbed a tee shirt and carefully made his way to the Kitchen.

Coffee was ready to click on and a note stood by the machine.

‘Good morning… Aspirin are in the cupboard over the sink…I’m pretty sure you’ll be looking for some this morning…LOL. I don’t think I can manage a day in the great outdoors today so I dug the Jeep out and have gone into Lucerne to do some work in the lab. If you fancy some company, the address is at the bottom of this page…I’ll treat you to lunch if you do come in, otherwise I may forget to eat.

Charlie

BTW…. You are an awesome dancer when you get wound up. Had a devil of a time getting you to stop!!!...C’

He laughed as he read the note and reached above the sink for the aspirin, took three without water and waited impatiently for the coffee to finish.

Strangely he didn’t feel the abject despair of the previous day. It was over, yes, but not unexpected. They had grown so far apart over the past year…. And Livi’s recent jealousy had deepened the rift. He had never cheated on her, though a few times she had accused him of it. She should have realized that it wasn’t in his nature. When he made a commitment he kept to his word and though there had been many opportunities, he had never strayed. God knew he would have been sort of justified at times.

Enough thinking about the past…he shrugged it off, determined to get on with his life, to pick up the shattered pieces of his ego and carry on. An image of a bubbly red head flitted across his mind and he mentally disrobed her, as he was sure most men did when they saw her without the many layers of outer severe-weather gear.

‘Don’t go there, Buhler!’ he warned himself, for some reason uncomfortable thinking of Charlie as just another hot chick, a possible conquest now that he was again single.

‘You’re an animal!’ he thought as he refilled his coffee. ‘Single for not even 24 hours and already lusting after the first woman to come in range.’ Charlie deserved better treatment than that. He clamped a tight restraint on his thoughts and took a gulp of the hot coffee, regretting his haste when the heat brought tears to his eyes.

He went to the lounge and slouched in one of the roomy chairs, nursing his coffee and thinking about the planned skiing today.

Bad idea. The fresh air would be nice but the effort of skiing was a bit beyond what his body felt capable of enjoying. He glanced at the clock over the mantle and thought about what he would do.

Lazing about wasn’t part of his nature, though he occasionally liked things like a massage or lying on a beach for a short spell. He knew himself too well to even consider a day of idleness, knew it would develop into a day of introspection that would solve nothing except to make his mood swing, and not in a positive direction.

Lunch in town appealed to him, not as much as seeing that friendly face and enjoying some cheerful, undemanding company. And, purely as a humanitarian, he did have to rescue Charlie from a day of famine.

He rose, a little more like himself, and took the rest of his coffee into the bathroom to shower and dress for the trip to town.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:35 am

CHAPTER FIVE

Urs found the address easily enough and on a spur of the moment whim stopped a few blocks away at a bistro he knew well to pick up lunch, not overly eager today to dine in the company of a lot of curious strangers. He found the rooms she had rented by scanning through the directory at the front door, a small, neatly hand lettered sign with just her name taped in one of the spaces and he climbed the stairs to knock gently on the door, his arms laden with a large box that emitted enticing odors.

He heard her voice call out to come in, her German accent terrible but at least she was trying and he grinned as he opened the door and stepped in.

This area was sparsely furnished: a folding table with 3 chairs, a storage unit crammed full of journals and equipment, a small refrigerator and a worn but clean rug covering the centre of the floor in front of an equally worn sofa in brown leather.

He set the box on the table but removed it when he saw the rickety legs begin to wobble and put it on the floor near the sofa. Charlie was no-where to be seen.

There were two doors leading off the main room, one he assumed was the bathroom and the other likely her dark room/lab. He knew nothing about developing film except that to open the door at the wrong point would be disastrous so he flopped on the sofa and waited.

A moment later he heard her call out.

“I can’t stop right now… can you wait…I’ll only be another 4 minutes?”

“I’ll wait but if I die of starvation it’s your fault,” he called back and was rewarded with her laughter.

Exactly four minutes later the door opened, the sharp scent of chemicals preceded her and Charlie came into the main room, closing the door behind her to keep the odor in and let the ventilator fan deal with it.

“Hi. Glad to see you survived…no ill effects from last night?” She looked at him with a grin and waved him away when he rose to greet her.

“Stay back…I smell of developer. Be right back.”

She scooted into the bathroom and he could hear her humming as she washed up, then came back out tucking a fresh, tight tee shirt into the waist of her jeans.

“There, all clean. You need a shave…didn’t trust yourself with a razor this morning?”

He laughed and pulled her into his arms to kiss her cheek.

“Just being lazy. Thank you for last night, Charlie. I feel worlds better today. C’mon…I brought lunch.”

He took her hand and led her to the carpet, sat down cross legged and motioned for her to join him.

“A picnic… great…I love surprises like this. What did you bring us?”

He opened the box and started pulling out containers, unwrapped a bottle of wine from a cotton cloth and spread it on the rug before taking two china plates and cutlery wrapped in cloth napkins out of the box.

“Open the wine, lazy girl, while I get this stuff opened up.”

She grinned at him and used the opener and knife he provided to cut the foil and twist the cork from the bottle of Merlot.

“I’m so pleased with myself today. I got some great shots of a Lammergeier a few days ago and they turned out perfectly. It’s a whole sequence where he swoops off with a large pelvic bone and gets some height, then cruises to an outcropping and drops it to break into manageable fragments. You can even see the bones shatter and fountain before he comes down to feed.”

“Lammergeier…that’s the bearded vulture, the one they call the ‘bone-eater’, right?” he queried as he opened a container of local cheese chunks and another of sliced crusty artisan bread.

“Yes…they’re usually very shy…I had to stake out the bones for several hours before his hunger got the best of him. Ohhh…that looks good…what is it?”

“Papet vaudois….leek and diced potatoes with hot smoked sausage. I wasn’t sure what you liked or how hungry you would be so I got a little bit of a bunch of things. And two nice covered bowls of Gerstensuppe…barley soup with thin vegetables and strips of smoked beef. I hope I didn’t get too much.”

Charlie laughed and raised her eyebrows at him as she snatched a small chop off yet another plate.

“You don’t know me well…yet. I’m so active that I have a voracious appetite and I love to try different things. Oh this tastes heavenly…” she reached for a few of the green beans on the last platter and received a tiny slap on the wrist.

“We have cutlery, woman….you don’t have to eat like a peasant. That one is called Bernerplatte …Bernese sausage, chops, bacon, tongue,” he chuckled when she made a face at that, “and pork knuckle, traditionally served with green beans or kraut.” He looked in the box again and made a face.

“They forgot to put in glasses…if you don’t have any we’ll have to share.”

“Sharing is good with me…all us peasants do it. If I use a fork can we eat now? I’m starving,” she said around the bone of the chop she had already finished and grinning when he laughed at her ‘peasant’ jibe.

“Me too…Dig in.”

They ate in companionable silence for a few moments except for the sighs of contentment from Charlie as she sampled everything.

“So, Charlie…are you a fan of ACDC or was that a fluke last night?”

She laughed again and he thought how refreshing a sound it was…and that she certainly did it often.

“I actually like them. I have a very eclectic taste in music…change it to suit my mood. I’ve often wished I could play an instrument or sing but the world is spared my attempts except in the shower. I envy you your talent. It must be an amazing feeling to share your voice with the world, to make so many people happy.”

“I think it was my destiny to be a performer. I feel the same though. It depends on my mood, what I like to listen to. Do you like classical at all?”

“Love it…I’ll show you some of the CD’s I’ve got when we get back to the house.” She was quiet for a moment as she took a drink from the wine bottle he held out to her.

“Urs…are you going to stay? I wasn’t sure if you would want to now.”

He looked at her with his fork raised half way to his mouth.

“Do you feel uncomfortable having a lone man staying with you? I understand if you do.”

“No, not at all. Any other man, maybe, but I feel I can trust you. I thought you might not want to stay…a strange woman under foot and …memories…you know.”

He watched her face and finished chewing his mouthful of food before smiling and answering.

“I think it’s because you are strange that I like you… and my honor doesn’t feel threatened. I can trust you, Charlie, can’t I?”

She choked on the soup she had been sipping and laughed at him.

“You mean will I ravage your toned body during the night? I could have done that last night and you wouldn’t have been able to defend yourself. You’re safe with me, Herr Buhler… I’m not really into casual sex or raping and pillaging.”

He grinned at her, his eyes twinkling from under his lowered eyelids.

“Too bad…the pillaging sounds nasty but the rest … interesting.”

They finished off the meal and he pulled the last item out of the box.

“Engandiner Nusstorte,” he said reverently as he set it on the cloth in a place of honor. “A shortbread crust filled with pieces of toasted walnuts mixed with caramel and honey.”

Charlie was practically drooling by the time he had cut her a small wedge and held it out for her to bite.

She tasted the confection and before he could remove his hand grabbed his wrist in a surprisingly strong grip, pulling it back to her mouth for a second bite.

This time she let him pull his hand away though he was laughing and couldn’t sample the small piece he had left.

“Heaven…. More…I need more of that,” she pleaded and he cut her another wedge then one for himself.

“My Mami makes this…hers is better. She made one for Christmas and it was gone before the family arrived, Papa and I finished it off then hid so she wouldn’t skin us alive.”

Charlie smiled at his reminiscence.

“You are so fortunate…such a large loving family. I was an only child and my parents died in an auto accident when I was 17, then Grampa a few years later so I have no one anymore.”

Urs reached across the remnants of their food and took her hand in his.

“Not true… you have me now and I’ll share my family with you.”

They were quiet for a few minutes when they had finished their dessert. He offered her the last bit in the bottle of Merlot and grumbled when she finished it, making her laugh.

“Well, I thought you would be polite and say…’oh no Urs…you finish it’… you’re right…I don’t know you very well yet. Now can I see some of your photos?”

She took him in the lab, turned the fan off that had vented the fumes and clicked the light on, then watched as he went between the rows of stills and contact sheets hanging from pegs on the drying racks. He commented on a few, asking about the area they had been shot in, mentioning how vivid the impressions were and the emotions she had captured. Finally he reached the end for the second time and turned to smile at her.

“I guess it would be redundant to tell you how good you are? These are amazing, Charlie….I feel in the presence of greatness.”

She flushed scarlet and bowed her head.

“Thank you. You don’t get to see the rolls and rolls of bad shots that it took to get these few good ones.”

“The Lammergeir shots are incredible…even the fountain of bone fragments are so clear, not in the least blurred. And the lynx…I can almost hear him breathing, smell the wild scent of him… You looked really close.”

“About 5 feet…I built a cover in the snow with some fallen branches and started shooting when he was sharpening his claws on that tree trunk. He started to come over to check me out but heard the camera advance and was gone like a shadow…with those wide feet he didn’t even sink in the crust.”

He came over to her with his hands deep in the front pockets of his jeans and stood towering over her and smiling.

“I’d better get out of here and let you get back to work. Thank you for sharing your photos with me.”

“Actually I’m finished for the day. I’m just going to tidy up and then do a bit of shopping before I go back to the house. What taboos do you have with food? I should provide you with dinner since you were kind enough to provide the picnic.”

“None…except maybe junk food. I don’t often indulge. I’ll pack up the leftovers and take them back to the bistro…except for the Nusstorte. That goes home.”

She smiled, not having to ask now if he was staying.

He puttered, putting the empty plates and few leftovers back in the box, then grinned at her and was gone.

Charlie finished tidying up the lab, reset the thermostat for the furnace and shrugged into her jacket and boots, pulling her gloves from one of the deep pockets and shouldering her large tote bag with her camera bag in one hand.

He was healing, though a hint of the pain was still there, lurking at the back of his eyes. He was a strong man, deep inside, he would be fine, given time. She locked up and hummed a tuneless melody as she made her way down the stairs and out into the cold.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:36 am

CHAPTER SIX

The house smelled heavenly when he arrived home just as the sun vanished behind the peaks. As always in the mountains the night fell suddenly, gone in a blaze of fire and then the stars appeared as if by magic, sparkling off the snow covered fields and hills, outlining the frosty draped trees.

She heard him coming across the veranda, knew by the echo of other feet that he wasn’t alone and looked up when he opened the door and ushered in another tall laughing man.

“Charlie, it smells like heaven in here…what are you up to?” he called out as they both stamped their feet to rid their boots of snow and shucked them off along with their jackets and gloves to take the few long strides necessary to enter the kitchen.

“Charlie, this is Henri, my baby brother. I rescued him off the street in Lucerne after I left the Bistro.”

“Hey, lay off on the Baby part,” Henri said with a laugh and a friendly shove. He reached over and captured Charlie’s hand to raise it to his mouth and kiss the fingers lightly.

She giggled when he realized that her hands were covered with dough and now so was his mouth. She handed him a paper towel.

“Sorry, Henri…I’m right in the middle of punching down my bread dough. But it is nice to meet you.”

She could have picked him out of a crowd as a relation of Urs’: the same sculpted face with high cheekbones, the same slanted eyes but a lovely chocolate brown and about 3 inches and 50 pounds more of Henri than there was of Urs. He obviously worked out too but concentrated on muscle building rather than overall toning, likely did a lot of weight lifting.

“The machine is ready if you two want coffee,” she said as she turned back to her bread and kneaded, turned, kneaded and turned until she was satisfied and plopped the whole ball into a pre-greased bowl, flipping a tea towel over it and placing it on the shelf above the Aga with two other bowls to rise again.

When she turned back Urs was just putting some beer in the frig and offered her one silently with a raised brow. She grinned and nodded as she went to the sink to wash up, cleaning her utensils and hands at the same time.

They were sprawled on the sofa in front of the fire when she entered the Lounge and Urs nodded at her opened beer and a glass on the end of the coffee table.

“I was telling Henri about your photos, I hope you don’t mind,” Urs said as she took up the bottle and chugged about a third before putting it down.

“Of course not. I don’t have any albums or books with me but you’re welcome to stop by when ever I’m in the lab. Do you work in Lucerne, Henri?”

“Ja, I teach Science at the Academy, have for 5 years now. I love working with the young people.”

Charlie smiled.

“I know what you mean…I’ve taught a few photography courses from time to time. I love how the kids have such intensity, how they suddenly start to see with new eyes and blossom. It’s very rewarding.”

Henri nodded as he watched her animated face. He could see now what Urs had meant when he called this woman intriguing.

“How did you get into photography, Charlie?” he asked. He felt Urs move off the sofa and cross the room to begin flicking through a stack of CD’s.

Charlie pulled her feet up to sit cross legged in the roomy chair, relaxed and friendly as she smiled and answered him.

“I was in second year of University when my parents died and though their estate covered my tuition I found I needed some extra to live on. A professor suggested doing part-time and freelance work with a local paper as photographer and from there it just kind of progressed. I’ve had some really lucky breaks. After I got my Arts degree I branched out and choose Nature since it held the most interest for me. I worked for a while as second string for National Geographic and after that never looked back.”

Urs had found some of her classical CD’s and now Mozart wafted about the room, weaving a spell of harmony that was appealing and unobtrusive.

“And now?” he said as he regained his spot on the end of the sofa with one long leg up on the seat and his arm draped over his raised knee, back against the arm rest.

“Now I have the pleasure of referring any projects I don’t have time for, to up and coming students who need the same breaks I got.”

They chatted back and forth for a while, drank another beer each and Urs told them some of the funny things that had happened on the tour. He never once mentioned Olivia, though she had been on the tour often, playing violin in the orchestra, quietly sharing his suite but staying in the background in public.

Charlie left them twice to check on the bread dough, the second time setting it in the hot oven and turning on the timer.

“I’m going to catch a quick shower while the bread bakes. Henri, will you stay for dinner? It’s nothing fancy but I can offer you some homemade soup, fresh bread and cheese, a nice salad of proscuitto, asparagus and figs, some Nusstorte if Urs stays out of it…if he doesn’t we just won’t share the chocolate torte I made this afternoon with him.”

Henri laughed and said he couldn’t be dragged away and she flashed Urs a grin as she went down the hall to her room.

“What a delightful woman…and she already has your number, big Brother,” he teased as they heard her bedroom door close.

Urs laughed.

“I feel like I’ve known her for a year not just a few days. She’s very comfortable to be around….no demands, no moods.”

“Is that the extent of the attraction?”

Urs glanced at his brother with a frown.

“Give me time, fool. It’s only been a day since Livi and I split.”

“Nonsense….the death was nearly a year ago….it’s the funeral that was yesterday. You’ve just been going through the motions for a long time. And you know it.”

Urs looked up at his baby brother and smiled ruefully.

“How could we have the same parents and you end up being so wise and me so dumb?”

Henri smiled back at him.

“You aren’t dumb, just a little slow to admit defeat.”

They could hear singing coming from the bathroom and Urs chuckled and shook his head.

“Okay, so she’s not perfect.”

They both cracked up laughing, trying hard not to do it loud enough for her to hear.

**

Charlie noticed the minute differences the minute she entered the kitchen and turned to stand facing Urs with her hands on her hips, grinning at his air of innocence but not fooled for a moment.

“You couldn’t find it, could you?” she challenged and he tried to play it out but failed when he started to laugh.

“NO. I give up…where did you hide the cake?”

She turned away with a chuckle and checked on the bread, thought it needed another 5 minutes and shut the oven door.

“If you’re a good boy and eat all your dinner, then maybe…”

“You are a cruel woman, Charlie.”

She ignored him and went about getting the table set and dinner ready, working efficiently through habit while the brothers perched on stools at the counter and talked about the Christmas they had just celebrated with the family.

“What did you do for Christmas, Charlie?” Henri asked. “Where you already here at the house?”

She looked up at him from where she had been drizzling the salad of proscuitto wrapped figs and asparagus with a scant amount of EVOO and Balsamic vinegar and smiled.

“I moved in the week before. Christmas day I set up my lab in the morning then visited some friends on line for a few minutes, not long since they all have families and I didn’t want to intrude. I went to the services at the little church outside of Lucerne…you know, the one we pass on the way to town and spent the evening doing some research on the wild horses that I start working on in February. Not very exciting I guess compared to your family gathering.”

Urs took the salad from her and put it on the table, snagged one of the black figs before she could stop him and laughed when she threatened him with a handy wooden spoon.

“Next year will be different. You will come home with us and be swarmed with family.”

Henri nodded in approval.

“Mami would love you. She is in despair that none of the girls likes cooking and you seem to.”

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:36 am

Charlie took the bread from the oven and deftly turned the loaves out onto a rack to cool, took one and put it on a cutting board next to a tub of butter that she had softened and whipped earlier with a touch of garlic and chives.

The soup was steaming and she ladled out bowls for each of them, took a cheese tray out of the frig, added a selection of pickles and announced that if they had washed up, dinner was ready.

Both of the men washed hands at the kitchen sink and pulled out chairs to sit at the table.

Urs looked at the creamy soup, smelled it and raised his brows at her.

“What is it?”

“Homemade…just eat it.”

Henri choked as she teased Urs and ducked when Big Brother looked like he might swing at him.

Urs tried a spoonful, then another and smiled.

“I still don’t know what it is except Great. Did you make this?”

“I like to cook as your much more observant brother noted. Soup is easy and filling so I make it a lot when I’m alone.”

“Can I help myself to another one?” he said as he wiped out his bowl with the end of a slice of bread that Charlie had cut.

She laughed and took his bowl to get some more, offering it to Henri as well and filling his also.

“Sweet Onion and Apple, creamed and simmered with Cilantro…one of my favorites,” she said as she resumed her seat and cut some more bread, the first loaf more than half gone now.

They worked their way through the meal, talking as diners so often do about good or bad meals they had had, finishing their soup {Urs had three bowls}, the salad, the cheese tray and part of the second loaf of bread, then when the Nussertorte appeared and she offered them coffee, Urs reminded her about the chocolate torte.

Charlie grinned at him.

“In my room, on the dresser…I figured my bedroom was the safest spot in the house.”

He was gone in a flash and came back carrying the seven layer creation carefully, hoping that she wouldn’t notice the long streak of a finger drawn through the chocolate ganache on one side.

She did but said nothing, carefully cut pieces and, grinning, gave him the one with the taste swipe he hadn’t been able to resist doing.

They sat in the Lounge and talked for a while, then Charlie excused herself and set about tidying the kitchen and dining area, started the water to wash the dishes and was surprised to find herself picked up by the waist and deposited on one of the counter stools while the two men tackled the washing and drying and refused to let her help.

She groused about being shut out of her Kitchen and having nothing to do for a while until Urs brought her a chocolate liquer and her notes on the Camargue, laying one long finger over her lips and warning her to behave.

She laughed and was soon deep into her reading while they joked and worked, soon making a completed job of it, including a wipe down of the stove and counters.

They joined her back at the counter, both of them rolling their sleeves back down and peeking over her notes to see why she was so intently studying them.

“I didn’t realize that there was so much interest in the wild horses of the Camargue,” Urs said as he sat and took a pull at the beer he had popped open.

Charlie looked up and smiled.

“It isn’t just the Camargue. There has been so much damage done to the few remaining herds of horses that none can now really be called wild…they’re feral horses or ponies, depending on the size of each species, descended from escaped domestic breeds… almost all are descendants of Equus Caballus except the Takhi of Mongolia and even those have been bred in captivity and returned to the wild…you might know them better as Pryzewalksis’ Horses. He discovered a herd roaming wild in the late 1800’s, long after they were considered extinct. They are the only species that has never been genetically manipulated, the foals still have 66 chromosomes compared to the 64 of domestic or manipulated stock, a very hard creature to train or control.”

Henri, nodded in agreement with her.

“I believe that there are populations of wild or feral horses on nearly every continent…Europe, North and South American, even Iceland.”

“and Australia…” Charlie added. “the Brumby in Australia is the largest group of feral horses, totally descendant from escaped stock since horses were never native to that continent. So I have a full year of travel ahead of me to cover all of them, to photograph the differences and try to make an interesting story of their fight for survival… I’m eager to get started.”

“So where do you live when you aren’t traveling?” Urs asked.

She shrugged her shoulders and then admitted that until recently she hadn’t had a real base to call her own. Most often she camped out with her best friends for a few weeks, renting a lab in a nearby city to develop her film and sort everything into manageable files for publication.

“And now?” Henri asked.

She spread her hands and indicated the room they were sitting in.

“I put in an offer on this house and land last month but haven’t heard anything back yet. I’m afraid that the developer will outbid me and I do so want to save the forest from his machines. It’s so beautiful here…it would be a shame to spoil it.”

Urs watched her as she talked about the property, impressed at the business knowledge she had of the purchase and her desire to protect the natural beauty of the land.

“Would you keep things the same or make changes?”

“A few changes…I would add on a section for a studio and lab, maybe a couple more bedrooms but keep the character of the building on the outside…and scrap some of the furnishings… my tastes run more to hand crafted and natural fibres. And I’d put in a generator for times when the storms knock out the power….and make the garage bigger to accommodate an extra vehicle and gardening supplies. I’ve always wanted to have a garden. The forest I would maintain as it is.”

“Why an extra vehicle? What do you drive now?” Henri asked.

She laughed at his inquisitive nature.

“I’d like a truck for picking up furniture and other big purchases, something I could put a plow blade on. Right now I drive Jessie, my Jeep Wrangler, 2003 Rubicon model, 4x4, in Rescue Green: 2 door, 3.8 Liter, v6, 292 HP with removable door and a Freedom top, light bar, Lock box, rear disc brakes and locking Dana 44 axles front and rear. I could tell you the rest of the specs but you might get bored. I do tend to ramble when I get going about Jessie.”

“292…that’s not standard…”Urs joined in the discussion.

She shot him a quick grin.

“No…I had her upgraded…sometimes I get out in the middle of nowhere and need the extra power…I also added extra fuel tanks, saddle bags, brackets for two extra spares and a GPS locator.”

“So you take the Jeep whenever you go on location?”

“It’s nice to have transportation you can count on when you’re out in North Nowhere, Mongolia. I can strip Jessie’s motor with my eyes closed now…I couldn’t begin to repair some strange vehicle.”

“How are you at motorcycles?” Urs asked with a grin.

“Ignorant, but I love a challenge. One day I want to ride on one and then if I don’t die of fright, maybe I’ll learn how to ride them and fix them.”

Urs laughed at her.

“I’ll take you for a ride in the spring.”

“Well, that will be the end of Charlie and motorcycles…he only knows one way to ride…FAST!!” Henri teased.

She laughed and slid off the stool to take her liquer glass to the sink, rinsed it and set it on the side for morning. The coffee was all ready to go so there was nothing left to prepare.

“I’m going to head off to my room, I’d like to get an early start in the morning and I need to touch base with Scarlett and Millie…it’s been two days and they begin to panic when they think I’m alone unless I check in now and again. You know them Urs…they’re fans, very nice women…you saw them in Niagara and a few times at GMTV and in Vegas, among other places. They’re my best friends in the whole world…they keep me grounded when I get a bit dissatisfied with life.”

His face lit up as he realized who she was talking about.

“Millie just comes to here on me,” he indicated his chin. “Scarlet is taller and has a wicked sense of humor. Say hi for me if you haven’t already.”

She raised her brow at him.

“I would never tell anyone we are sharing a vacation, albeit an innocent one, not without your permission.”

“In this case I know our secret is safe. They’re very nice ladies and I trust them. Go ahead, say hi for me.”

She smiled and kissed each of them on the cheek.

“You come back anytime, Henri…don’t wait for an invitation,” she said and went down the hall to her room, closing the door quietly.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:37 am

CHAPTER SEVEN

Urs had left her a note propped against the coffee machine.

‘GOOD MORNING!!!

Thank you so much for yesterday…It was perfect. I’m meeting Henri for skiing today since he is still off on Christmas hols. May actually stay over the night at his flat…depends on how much arm twisting he does to get me into the après ski clubs.

Be careful out there and come in early…the radio is calling for a squall in the early evening and I don’t know how to make bread if we run out.

Xxx Urs.’

She smiled as she got ready, following her usual routine, thinking about the past night and about the reaction she was sure would erupt sometime today when Millie and Scarlet checked their messages. Neither had been on line when she checked in before bed so she just left a short but intriguing message.

‘HI: sorry haven’t checked in for a few days…have been very busy and when we actually speak you will understand why. This place is very quiet, peaceful, in the middle of nowhere…just the sort of place a tired singer would wish to go for some R&R…Just between us Fluffy Sisters: the rental agent screwed up and rented it out to a couple who arrived 2 days ago…she was not too happy, with him or the place and left him for good, but he likes it here and stayed. He’s every bit as nice as you said, more so even and last night I met his brother too.

Tired and have an early day tomorrow.

Love you both…oh and BTW he says “Hi”

Charlie Tuna.’

She could just picture the reaction on both of their faces when they read the message and knew they had to wait until she got back home before hearing more. They would be hovering, waiting for her to key in, just like she would if the roles had been reversed.

She finished dressing and headed outdoors, quietly closing up behind her since he was still sleeping. She checked the sky and made a face. Overcast…well that let out the scenes she had wanted of the falls so she would check out the lower forest for signs of animals not hibernating. She snapped her feet into the bear paws, turned on her head lamp and set out at a brisk pace.

**

Urs woke not sure what had disturbed him but hoping that Charlie would still be here when he wandered into the kitchen in bare feet, zipping up his jeans and carrying his pale blue tee draped over one shoulder. She was gone, he saw that right away, the coffee machine was set up and her thermos was gone from it’s accustomed spot beside the sink. He glanced out the kitchen window and could just make out the glow of her head lamp bobbing at a brisk rate along the snow as she crested the first hill.

Today he was hungry and fixed himself a sandwich with some of the cheese from last night on two slabs of her delicious rustic bread while he waited for the coffee. Once more he reminded himself to get a French Press while in town and chuckled that Charlie had been here over two weeks and still didn’t have one though she mentioned it often. He had one other article that he was determined to find when in Lucerne, something he hoped Charlie would go along with.

He took his coffee and sandwich to the counter and perched to enjoy them and think about last night.

It had been great to have some one-on-one time with Henri, something that had been impossible at home over the holidays with so many people present. They had talked briefly about Olivia and Urs agreed finally that he had known it was over but hadn’t wanted to give up. Then the subject changed to Henri’s latest lady, this one looking like it could be The One. He had never seen his brother so enamored over a woman…. This one was a teacher as well, taught History at the Academy and Henri seemed to think the sun rose and set just for his Julie. They had been together for 6 months now, sharing Henri’s flat, though at the moment she was home in Ecuador for the holidays, not due back until January 3rd.

Today they planned on going skiing together and Urs wanted to shop first so he hustled through his breakfast and went to shower and change.

Livi had taken all but the bit of his shampoo he had used yesterday so he invaded Charlie’s territory knowing she wouldn’t mind if her borrowed hers.

Her room was neat, as he had known it would be, the twin of his except for the laptop computer on the small table by the window, the mail icon flashing impatiently as he went past. He glanced at the few books stacked beside her bed and drew in a deep breath, inhaling her light scent from the bedding, couldn’t put a name to it until he entered the bathroom. The mirrors were still slightly steamed from her shower and the air heavy with the scent she wore, white tea and ginger he saw when he picked up the bottles of shampoo and conditioner and noticed a large body lotion on the counter that matched.

He decided to use her shower rather than cart the supplies back to his and shucked out of his clothing, adjusted the spray and grabbed the loofah hanging from the curtain rod.

It seemed a little intimate to be using her products, especially without her permission and as so often happened to him in the morning he found himself aroused, not enough to need to adjust the water to frigid but enough to make him smile.

He wondered if Charlie realized just how sensual her demeanor was, this caring, non-demanding attitude she had, the way she smiled and laughed so often, the way she had of casually touching his hand or arm, even occasionally his face to get her point across.

He shook himself and leaned under the spray to let the water rinse him from top to bottom, deciding that thinking about Charlie was not going to make his body behave so he had better focus on something else.

He thought about her singing in the shower and laughed …. No, music was definitely not one of her talents though she seemed to love it. He started humming the newest track Il Divo had been working on before the break, finished rinsing and turned the shower off, reached out for a towel to rub his hair partly dry and flicked the towel around his slim hips before stepping out onto the mat.

Fifteen minutes later he was ready and checked the house one last time to make sure everything was off and tidy, went out through the front to his rental car, checked the straps on his skis to make sure he wouldn’t lose them on the drive to town and headed out under increasingly overcast skies to meet Henri.

**

Charlie was disappointed. She had found few trails in the snow, all the creatures of the forest sensing that a storm was coming and hunkering down to ride it out. She took a few shots from the waterfall area of the gathering storm clouds, good filler shots for inclement weather lead ups but by early afternoon had not done anything worthwhile and decided to call it a wasted day.

She cut through a grove of trees, needing at the moment to go through the necessity of shedding some of her layers in order to empty her bladder, thinking as she did that it was so unfair what an advantage males had out in the field.

Like a good hiker she covered her donation to keep the scent from spooking the natural life of the forest and pulled her layers back into place, took a few steps towards her back pack, camera bag and bear paws and screamed as a large metal mouth snapped shut around her ankle, hampered from breaking the bones by the heavy boots she wore.

The pain was excruciating and she fell back in the snow to rest on her butt, only now noticing the heavy chain that went around the tree and attached to the now visible leg hold trap, a barbaric tool banned in most countries as in- humane.

She sat for a few minutes, rocking her body, trying to cope with the shock and pain until her innate sense of survival and hours of training came to her aid and she forced herself to calm and think clearly, gulping in air as she tried to regain control of her breathing and racing heart. Now was not the time to panic…but the pain ate at her and her urge was to scream. She fought it down, whimpering, her toes already swelling in her thick boots, the pain radiating all the way to her knee.

She had to assess her situation…there was no one else to turn to so her choices were limited…cope and figure out what to do or die here within a mile of safety, alone in the cold with a storm fast approaching. All the training she had gone through told her that this time, the minutes she was squandering giving in to the pain and trauma were the golden minutes that could mean the difference between death from freezing and survival. She needed to find the strength to act, and now before shock and pain rendered her useless.

Using the tree she inched up onto her free leg and inspected the trap, holding back her tears in an effort to remain calm and figure a way out of her imprisonment.

There was a bar that she should be able to press and then pry the teeth apart and she steeled herself to try, knowing it would cause her more pain but pain was sometimes good…she might get the adrenal boost she needed to get out of this fix.

Several attempts later she realized she didn’t have the strength and would have to think of another way. She inspected the chain, all the time feeling her ankle swelling from the pressure and trying to ignore it, in a strange way thankful for the cold which would keep the swelling down a bit and numb the pain.

It was heavy and solid, done up with a small lock but there was some play to the length, enough that she could reach her equipment.

On to plan B, she thought and found the notion funny, hoped that it didn’t mean she was becoming hysterical and tried to concentrate on surviving until help came since gaining freedom on her own was out of the question. Help?.... from where? Urs was the only one who would notice that she was missing, but then only if he came back to the house. Alright, that mean the possibility that she would be held here for maybe two days, if he didn’t come back to the house tonight.

For a moment the words ‘TWO DAYS’ shrieked in her head, drowning all thought of reason and logic. She would never survive that long…even her gear was only meant as a stop gap for a few hours…two days? Fine!!! She would do it if she had to…was there really any choice?


She pulled her survival pack toward her and dug out a pain killer, swallowed it with a scant mouthful of her drink, not sure how long it would be before someone rescued her…she needed to conserve everything she had.

She pulled the small bundle of a folded up nylon survival tent out of the pack and popped it open to wedge it between two trees, lay her bear paws underneath as a base and spread one of the two thin Arctic skins over them, placing her gear bag at the end where a pillow would be, the padding sufficient to be relatively comfortable, placed her meager food supplies along the edges, easy to reach and crawled in to the shelter, dragging the trap and chain painfully behind her.

She caught her breath for a moment, forcing the pain and panic down, searched in her pocket for her head lamp and hung it within reach from one of the cross members of the low tent, positioned so that she could flash it through the opening periodically in hopes that someone would see.

As best she could she wrapped the shiny silver material around her feet, trap and all and pulled the edges up then covered herself with the other one and lay back, waiting for the pain pill to take effect.

She tried desperately not to cry…she would need to conserve her warmth and fluids…had none to spare for tears. Besides all the instructors had stressed how important it was to keep a positive attitude. She wondered how many of them had ever had one foot in a leg hold trap, on the side of a Swiss mountain with a blizzard imminent?

Before the pill and shock addled her senses she pulled her Canon from her gear bag, inserted fresh batteries in the flash and placed it inside her clothing to keep it warm. He head lamp wouldn’t last for two days but she could use the flash to attract attention if the expected storm let up.

The pill began to work and she felt warm from the science of the thin covers that reflected back her own body heat, began to drift off in trauma induced sleep, praying that Urs would not stay over at Henri’s and would notice that she was missing.

Outside the small open-ended tent, the wind began to pick up and the first snow flakes of the storm drifted serenely to the ground.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:37 am

CHAPTER EIGHT

His shopping had been successful and he arrived to meet Henri right on time, two good omens for this new day.

They bought their lift passes and skied together for a while, natives to the area, they knew enough to keep a watchful eye on the skies.

One last time they went up the lift and stood at the top of the run, noticing that the lights had come on due to the automatic sensors that gauged the darkness of the day.

“Last run, I think?” Henri said as a question and Urs nodded.

“I was thinking of staying over but I better try to beat the storm and get home. I left Charlie a note this morning suggesting that she come in early. I hope she listened to me.”

“This feels like a good night to stay in, maybe catch up on some of the books I got for Christmas. And I’m on call this weekend…if the storm gets bad everyone will be on alert,” Henri admitted as he pulled on his gloves and lowered his goggles.

“Race you down,” he called out and pushed off while Urs was still putting his gloves on.

“You cheat!!!.....Argh!!!” Urs growled as his competitive nature took hold and he pushed off, going immediately into a racing crouch to try and catch up.

They flew down the run, taking to the air several times off the top of moguls, carving a path past slower skiers, reaching the lodge in a dead heat, laughing and exhilarated from the effort.

“You’re getting slow, Big Brother…before Il Divo you could have taken me easily….. is it age or lack of practice?”

“Neither…I hate to see such a big man cry so I let you down easy.”

They went out to the cars, continuing with their good natured ribbing and Henri asked if Urs was going to come in for a drink.

He glanced at the darkening sky and noticed a few flakes beginning to fall.

“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass. I want to get back before this hits.”

He was uneasy as he approached Lucerne and drove through without stopping, turned onto the road for the farmhouse and watched the approaching clouds, his tension building the closer he got to home, though he wasn’t sure why. Charlie was a sensible woman, had survived a long time without him around to worry about her…still he felt a building sense of foreboding and drove as fast as possible in the increasing flurries and darkness. Though it was early afternoon it was dark enough now to need his head lights and he began hoping that Charlie was already home and would laugh at how concerned he was.

The turn into the drive showed a completely dark house and his heart sank. It was nearly impossible to see the trees just over a mile away at the base of the first hill, the blowing snow obscuring them for long minutes except as a darker shadow in the wall of white. Hopefully she was home and had fallen asleep without turning any lights on.

He gathered up his belongings and purchases, took the steps two at a time, unlocked the door to enter and even before he called out her name he knew the house was empty.

“Charlie? Damn it Charlie, where are you?”

He raced through the house, turning on lights and checking every room, not even bothering to take his boots off. Finally he checked the mud room and saw that all her gear was still gone. He stood at the door, staring out the multi-paned window, praying that she would appear out of the increasing flurries but saw nothing.

It grew steadily darker out and he turned on every light, inside and out, hoping to provide a beacon that she could see through the snow, something that would lead her home. He went to the kitchen and reheated the remains of the soup then put a lid on the pot and left it on the warming area of the Aga to stay ready, made coffee in the new French Press, started the fire, turned on the radio for the local forecast then turned it off in case she called out, wanting to hear and help if she did.

By the time he had been home an hour it was impossible to see the garage a scant 100 yards from the back of the house.

By 8p.m. he was frantic and called Henri. A member of SAR, he would know what to do.

He quickly explained his concerns and mentioned that he knew Charlie had survival training and took gear with her. How long could she survive in these conditions?

“Over night shouldn’t be too much problem if she gets herself into shelter and isn’t injured. The temp is really dropping ….her worse problem will be trying to retain her core temperature….I guess you don’t know what kind of gear she has with her?”

Urs admitted that he didn’t know, just that it wasn’t terribly heavy or bulky, fit nicely into a medium sized back pack. And no mobile phone since she knew from trying the first few days that a connection was impossible in the valleys and spotty at best on the hills.

“Damn, then she just has one of the pop up tents and likely Arctic blankets…..those are just short term fixes, not meant for long stretches. We can’t get up there right now, Urs. The roads are blocked. It’s been really bad in the valley in the last 6 hours, much worse than up where you are. It’s impossible to see more than a foot in front of you at the moment. If she isn’t back by morning I’ll get a team together and we’ll try to reach you by snow-mobile. Whatever you do don’t go haring off looking for her and getting lost yourself. Stay at the house, watch for her head lamp or a flare and if you see one then it should be safe to go out, but be careful …you can’t help Charlie if you go racing off and get in trouble yourself. Mark the trail, with flares if you have them, most places keep them just in case, you know that. Promise me you won’t go out looking without talking to me first….Urs, PROMISE!!!”

He heard the reluctant promise and sighed with relief….one thing he could count on about his brother…he kept his word.

“Keep the house warm, she’ll need it when she gets in. Call me again if you see anything.”

Urs could hear the concern in Henri’s voice and the futility at not being able to do anything to help. He took a deep breath and thought about what he should do, then lit the fire in the fireplace, carefully placing the screen back around it, turned the thermostat up a few degrees, went back to the Kitchen and rummaged until he found another thermos, made hot chocolate and filled it, searched in the mudroom until he came across a box of road flares and a coil of flexible nylon rope that might come in handy, slipped a Swiss Army knife into his pocket and got his cold weather gear ready…just in case.

He pulled one of the high kitchen stools into the mud room near the door and watched, hardly daring to blink, sipping on coffee after coffee until the kitchen clock showed that it was after midnight. There was nothing to see but the white, blowing drifts of snow that swirled just outside the windows. By one a.m. the wind had died down a bit and near 2 a.m. he began to be able to discern outlines of trees in the distance…The storm had either passed or was in a lull.

He had found a pair of binoculars on his quick foray to the lav and now used them to see more clearly but still there was no sign of movement, no light to show him that someone was out there.

Near three a.m. there was a break in the cloud cover and he moved outside to stand on the back step briefly, kicking at the accumulated snow from the storm and using the glasses to scan the tree line again.

He almost missed it…a small flicker of light just inside the line of trees beyond the first rise in the ground. He swept the glasses back and saw it again, flashing, not steady, a faint light like something small, like a head lamp that was fading…. Or the flash of a camera. Quickly he pinpointed the location, noting the alignment of the trees, put the glasses down and lunged into the house to grasp his mobile phone.

“I see something, Henri…faint but a light, just beyond the line of trees to the north-east. There’s a lull in the storm. I’m going out to check. I’ll call as soon as I get back.”

He cut Henri off before he could voice any protests and stepped into his boots, ignoring the ringing of his mobile…it would be Henri calling back to try and get another promise out of him…..No way!!…he had done enough waiting, would go crazy if he didn’t do something. He pulled his heavy jacket on and wrapped a scarf around his neck, pulled a toque over his curls and gathered the equipment he had placed in the mud room, ready.

The flares were in a canvas satchel and he placed the first one about 100 yards out from the house, snapping it and placing it along the trail he was making with his cross country skies, wasting no time now that he had a purpose.

He kept checking the configuration of the trees he had noted from the house and plodded on, figuring it to be about a mile or mile and a half to the spot where he had seen the light, hoping to see it again and confirm that whoever was flashing the light was still alive.

The closer he got to the trees the more confusing it became…there were no tracks, the storm had covered everything and the alignment of the trees took on a much different look as he drew nearer. He decided that it hadn’t appeared very far in and he would search both ways, using his entry to the forest as the pivot, only going in a hundred yards at the start and expanding his pattern as the need arose.

He searched for half an hour, beginning to panic a bit when he thought of how long the flares would last and noticed a few flakes of snow starting to fall again.

In frustration he cupped his hands around his mouth and called out.

“CHARLIE? CHARLIE…TRY TO TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE!!!”

The forest was silent, still, unoccupied…except off to his right, only a few yards away…he heard a faint moan and saw an unnatural mound of snow….a small opening at one end with something that could be a head lamp hanging from the rigid branch that held the dome a few feet off the ground. Even as he took a step toward the mound he saw a flash of light.

In seconds he reached the opening, snapped off his skis and began to crawl inside, his flashlight on and gripped in one gloved hand.

There was a motionless silver mound laying on the ground inside the shelter, a few strands of red hair peeking out of one end, one small gloved hand holding a small camera just barely visible. He lay the light on the ground and gently pulled the thin silver blanket back from her face, leaning over to put his face close to hers to check her breathing., not even aware that he was quietly chanting….”Please let her be alive, Charlie, sweet Charlie, you have to be alive, Please, please…”

She was alive, but her breathing was shallow, her lips blue from the cold, sealed closed with an icy crust, her skin an unhealthy grey with icy crystals like stardust on her cheeks. Her dark lashes looked frozen to her cheeks and he ripped his gloves off to place his long fingers on her lids hoping to warm her eyes, leaned over her to fix his open mouth completely over hers and run his warm tongue gently back and forth over her lips to unseal them. She moaned lightly and he gasped with relief to actually hear her making a sound.

“I’m here, Charlie. Just keep breathing, Baby. I’m here. I’ll get you home.”

Quickly he uncapped the thermos and took a mouthful of the steaming liquid, gathered her into his arms and dribbled hot chocolate from his mouth into the small opening he had managed to thaw between her lips, encouraged when he felt her swallow. He did it again and again until they both had faces covered in chocolate but her mouth was open and he wiped it off then poured more for her into the cap, relieved when she sipped at it and opened her eyes just a bit.

“Urs…” she spoke in a raspy whisper but her relief was there in the whispered word and he felt like weeping but had no time for it now. He had to get her home and warm.

“Trap…my foot…” she managed and he glanced at the mound where her feet would be, pulled the Arctic skin away and was horrified to see the huge metal trap that encased her booted foot, a heavy chain trailing from it out of the tent and under the snow.

He lay her back down and covered her upper body, inspected the trap and saw how it worked. He glanced at her and saw that she was watching him. She tried to smile and nodded, knowing he was going to hurt her but that it had to be done.

It took a few minutes…there was no wonder she couldn’t remove it…it took all his strength to push the bar down and open the teeth, especially when she moaned weakly from the pain and the sound of it cut through him like a hot knife, but he steeled himself to ignore her cries and at last it was done and discarded. He wrapped her feet up again and went back to her head, concerned at the pallor of her skin, distraught at having hurt her when she was already suffering.

“Baby, I have to get you home. I’m going to cover you up while I make something out of the tent. I’ll be right back, I promise.”

She didn’t open her eyes but nodded slightly and he covered her up then worked as fast as he could, taking the tent down, using his skis and the tent to make a sled of sorts, attaching some of the rope he had packed with him as a handle and tying the too small bear paws on his feet.

It was awkward moving around now but he gathered her up, Arctic skins and all and placed her on the sled, tying her in place with the ends of the rope, talking the whole time to comfort her, slinging the camera bag she would be devastated to leave onto his back and warning her that the ride would not be smooth but over soon.

He glanced at the dark sky and knew they were in for more snow fall, prayed that it would hold off until he got Charlie to safety and started out, aiming for the faint line of flares he could still see in the snowdrifts.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:39 am

CHAPTER NINE

It was hard going in the fresh snow, dragging the sled that was really too narrow to maneuver easily and using the small snow shoes that he wasn’t accustomed to. The snow started to swirl again as they neared the last of the flares, the first ones placed, they were now dying out but he could see the lights of the house and wasn’t concerned.

It had taken almost an hour and he was exhausted by the time he scooped her off the ski/sled and staggered up the steps to the back door. He didn’t stop in the mud room, went straight on into the Lounge and lay her gently on the rug in front of the fireplace, caught his breath for a moment then unwrapped her as he reached for his mobile. It was almost sunup now but Henri answered before the first ring had finished.

“I’ve got her. She’s so cold she’s blue…her foot was caught in a trap. What do I do now? A hot bath?”

“NO!!!....Charlie likely is hypothermic…you have to bring her temp up slowly. Strip her and put her in a tub, lukewarm only then as her color improves gradually add more hot until she feels warm…dry her off, be rough to get the circulation going in her skin then bundle her into a bed and keep her warm…body heat works best. Hot drinks and warmth is best for now and I’ll get someone out to look at her foot as soon as I can…we’ve got a couple of lost skiers to look for and I might be a while. Just keep her warm Urs, no matter what you have to do.”

He closed the mobile and looked down at Charlie, still partly bundled in the silver survival blankets and her outdoor clothing, still not moving or making a sound. He took a deep breath and shed his heavy clothing, leaving it in an untidy heap on the floor, took his boots off and sighed. He had thought fleetingly about getting Charlie naked but this wasn’t exactly how he had imagined.

He smiled in case she opened her eyes, wanting to seem positive about her condition though inside he was feeling inadequate to deal with the situation. He shook himself mentally, seeking calmness since he was, in reality the only game in town at the moment…he would have to cope. He knelt beside her starting to peel off the many layers until at last he was down to serviceable cotton under garments, vest and panties. He forced himself to look at her ankle and foot, winced at the bruising and the swollen skin but happy that at least there was no bleeding.

Urs gathered her up in his arms. She felt much lighter now without all the gear and boots and reacted to his touch by snuggling against his chest, her face still icy cold against his thin shirt.

In the bathroom he turned on the water for the tub and sat on the edge with her cradled in his arms, putting off till the last second, removal of the last barriers of clothing. When he felt the water was just right, neither hot nor cold, he talked to her as he removed the vest and panties and carefully lowered her into the tub, appalled at the bluish tinge to her skin and the shivering spasms that made her boneless body shake.

“Henri says to do this slowly, in stages. Your lips are still a bit blue, Charlie. Open your eyes, Baby. I need to see your eyes, Liebe. C’mon, open your beautiful eyes for me. That’s my girl. That’s better…the shivering isn’t as bad now.”

She struggled to raise her hand and he took it in his, rubbing her fingers between both of his hands.

“Real…” he didn’t understand at first and she said it again.

“No…dream…real…”

He brought her hand up to his face and placed the icy palm against his cheek.

“Yes, I’m real…I saw your light…You’re home, Liebling. You have no idea what a relief it was to see that light shining in the dark. I watched for so long, at first I thought I was hallucinating. Do you need something more to drink? I think there’s some hot chocolate left… I’ll even let you drink it out of a cup this time.”

She smiled just a bit and he left her, going to the kitchen to get a mug of the hot beverage for her.

He arrived back at the bathroom door just in time to see her sleeping again and slipping under the water, her hair floating on the surface.

Urs leapt forward, spilling the drink as he roughly set it on the edge of the tub, plunging his arms into the tub and pulling her up.

“Charlie… God, I shouldn’t have left you. Charlie…stay awake…sit up now just for a moment.”

He held the mug while she sipped at the contents and when she lay her head against the back rest, stood and stripped his clothing off, not at all concerned any more about modesty.

Her lips were pinking up nicely so he pulled the plug to let out some of the cold and added hot water until the bath was tepid, stepped into the tub and sat behind her with her back against his chest, his long legs on each side of hers and his arms holding her just underneath her breasts.

They repeated the emptying and re-filling four more times, each time just a little hotter, until she was a nice healthy pink and able to talk fairly coherently with him.

“I prayed you wouldn’t stay at Henri’s…I don’t think I would have lasted another day out there.”

“I wanted to surprise you…I bought a French Press…and then I waited and waited…I almost didn’t see the flash from the camera.”

“The battery was dying….I used it off and on after the head lamp died out, but I guess with the snow you couldn’t see it.”

“Never mind…you’re safe now…. But I’m tempted to tape a GPS locator to you if you go out alone again.”

She smiled and nestled her head back against his shoulder, recovered enough now to realize how envied she would be by so many women…naked in a tub with the Swiss Rock God…. If they only knew. It was hardly the romantic scene that most would imagine, both of them too tired at the moment to have lusty thoughts.

He let the water out and sat her on a stool, wrapping a towel around his hips and using another one to rub her briskly until she was dry and a rosy pink all over. He used a third large towel to wrap her up and carried her through to the lounge to lay her on the sofa, easily moved it closer to the fireplace and came around to sit beside her.

“You feeling better now?”

“Mostly,” she whispered and shivered.

He went to the bedroom for the thick duvet and brought it out, took the damp towel away and wrapped her with the fluffy cover. This time he found it impossible not to look at her body and he felt his own react, felt a warmth that he didn’t at this precise moment welcome but had little control of. She was a real redhead, there was no hiding the neat mound of curls that proved this beyond a doubt and had magnificent breasts, full and round with large pink nipples that still protruded from the cold.

“I need to keep you warm, Charlie.”

“I know, Urs.”

She was shaking when she lifted the cover to invite him onto the couch, knowing she needed his warmth and that he was hesitant. He dropped the towel and lay gently beside her, wrapping her in his arms, sharing his body heat from toes to head, holding her against him under the soft duvet and stroking her back with his large hands, her face buried against his shoulder and her cold hands against his chest.

He nearly moaned when those large breasts pushed against his chest, making his member jerk as it swelled even more with yearning. Her skin was still cool and smooth, silky and he rubbed his hands over her to warm her, down her back and across her firm bottom, up the sides of her hips, his thumbs just touching the swell of breast. He turned her over so her back was against him, thinking that would be better and he could rub the other side to get warmth into her…at least that was his rationale until he realized just where his hands would have to stroke and turned her back.

It was half an hour before the shivering faded to occasional shudders, before she felt warm and soft in his arms and fell into contented, healing sleep…. Not before she felt his arousal against her stomach and smiled. He tried to ease his lower body away from contact with her but he was a very big boy and the couch was narrow.

She drifted off to sleep with a smile, safe, warm, content to know that she could cause this reaction in such a special man…even if it was not going any further.

**

They were both awake and dressed when the growl of snowmobiles announced that someone had arrived outside. A few minutes later Henri rapped on the front door and strode inside, dressed in a one piece suit with high neck and thick padding to keep him toasty warm, an orange and yellow S and R vest glaringly bright against the blinding whiteness of the fresh snow fall outside. Another man followed him, carrying a medical bag and they both stood on the large carpet in front of the door to take off helmets, gloves and boots, to loosen the fastenings of their coveralls and vests.

Charlie smiled at them from the couch where Urs had installed her wrapped in the duvet. Her foot hurt too much to walk around a lot and her internal thermostat still hadn’t got used to warming her body…. She still felt chilled, though when they took her temperature it was almost at normal.

“Did you find the skiers?” she asked Henri as he came across to warm his hands at the fire

“Yes…drunk in one of the après ski bars. No one could get home so they just stayed, drinking all night and didn’t have enough sense to call their friends.”

He motioned the other man over just as Urs appeared from the kitchen.

“Urs, Charlie…this is Jan…he’s the medic on duty this week-end and would love to check out our favorite photographer, bread baker.”

Urs shook hands with Jan and grinned at Charlie.

“She bounces back pretty well, I think. Last night she was a popsicle and today she’s just about back to her old self…bossy and hungry.”

“Thanks to you, Herr Buhler…a few more hours and the Lammergeyer would have been dropping my bones on the escarpment for lunch.”

Jan came over to her and did all the usual stuff, heart rate, pulse, listened to her lungs then checked out her foot and ankle, carefully removing the only thing they had found that fit…one of Urs’ heavy ski socks.

Jan assured her that he thought nothing had been broken and that she would just need to take the swelling down and baby her foot for a few days until it felt better.

“I think the cold kept you from having anything worse happen and of course the heavy boot saved your bones from being crushed. Give it some time before you do any hiking and you should be fine.”

Urs offered them some lunch or at the very least something hot to drink and helped Charlie into the kitchen to perch on a stool while he puttered and found something for everyone to eat and drink.

“Ahhh, hot chocolate…I was never so happy to taste anything in my life as when Urs arrived with a thermos full,” Charlie murmured as she sipped the drink he poured for her.

“You were lucky your lips hadn’t frozen. It’s a problem we always have with rescues…victims with frozen mouths,” Jan said and looked on in confusion when Charlie began to laugh.

“Mine were, but my Hero here figured out a way to defrost me and fed me a hot drink until I could drink from a cup,” Charlie said with a grin while Urs blushed.

“I didn’t know you remembered that part,” he said, really uncomfortable when she teased him.

Henri caught the interplay between them and reminded himself to question Urs about it later. For now he changed the subject.

“So what are you going to do to keep busy while you rest your foot?” he asked Charlie.

“Read a lot and catch up on some of my e.mails. I only have a few more weeks and then I have to go to the Camargue then off to South America to shoot the Cimmarons, some time in Chincoteague with the ponies there and then Mongolia in April for the new born Tahkis, if I can get permission. If I get the house I’d like some time off in late spring to get the garden in shape and do some Spring shoots here but it all depends.”

“If you come back, call me. I would love for you to meet my Julie,” Henri said and she could tell by his smile that he meant it.

“I’d like that,” she answered and Urs smiled thinking how nice it would be to keep in contact with her, at the very least as a friend, though his mind flashed him an image that was far beyond merely friendly.

He thought about waking this morning with her cradled in his arms, nice and warm and sleeping peacefully, soft against his hard body, breathing gently, one arm up with her hand on his neck, fingers touching his hair. He tried to ease away from her to get off the couch but she woke and her eyes met his with warmth as she smiled.

“Good morning. You make a very cozy blanket. Thank you for sharing with me. Now if you could just help me to the loo before I embarrass both of us, I’d be grateful.”

He was so relieved that she could treat their nakedness so casually that he laughed and eased away from her to pick the towel off the floor and wrap it around his hips then picked her up, duvet and all and carried her to the ensuite. He stood her next to the sink and left, going to his room for clean clothes and then hers for something fresh for her to wear.

She was seated on the small chair by the shower when he knocked and went in, helped her with her panties and jeans, pulled a tee shirt over her head, trying not to look but failing and folded the duvet to leave it on the counter.

They discovered that her foot was too swollen to wear her slippers so she wore one and a heavy sock from his supplies and he took her back out to the lounge, placing her firmly on the couch they had shared and started tidying up from the hasty arrival last night while the coffee brewed.

She had caught his hand when he brought her a coffee and thanked him, for the rescue, for the bath and the night of warming her and apologized for the twist his vacation had taken.

“Don’t, Charlie. There’s no need. You make me feel alive, something I’ve been lacking in my life for a long, long time. I nearly went mad thinking about all the things that could have happened to you and not able to do anything.”

She had reached a hand up to him and he crouched in front of her, close enough that she touched his face and leaned over to put her mouth gently on his.

Just thinking of the tenderness of that gentle touch made a fire start again deep in his belly and he had to wiggle a bit on the stool to adjust himself to a more comfortable position.

“Urs?” He only now realized that he had been lost in his thoughts, in the kiss they had shared when he told her that he was worried about her and she thanked him once again.

“Urs…we need to tell the authorities about the trap and have it removed before it does any more damage. If I send someone up this afternoon can you show them where it is?” Henri was grinning at him, fully aware of where his thoughts had been.

Urs felt his face flush a bit but he assured Henri that he would gladly help in any way he could. The image of what that terrible equipment could do to the fragile unprotected bones of deer or any small animal, vivid after prying it off of Charlie.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:41 am

CHAPTER TEN

Charlie spent most of the afternoon on the couch wrapped in the duvet while Urs went with the Rangers then returned and puttered in the kitchen, surprising her with an afternoon snack of fresh biscuits from the base mix she had in a sealed jar and some tasty jam he had picked up in Lucerne. He had whittled a cane for her to get around on her own, using an old broom from the closet and brought her the laptop when she asked, watching as she deftly keyed in and answered some of her mail.

“You make it look so easy. I usually end up sending my mail to myself.”

“I remember. Is that why you so seldom post?…it would make the Ubers so happy if you posted now and then…just a few lines.”

“Then it’s up to you to teach me. I have a Mac…is it done any different than on yours?”

She laughed at him.

“You are such a techno virgin.”

He roared with laughter.

“I haven’t been called that since I was 15. You aren’t going to make it public what happened are you?”

“Of course not. Millie and Scarlett are going to wonder why I haven’t been on for a few days but I don’t tell anyone else anything, especially about you.”

She looked up at him as he leaned over the back of the couch with his head on her shoulder watching.

“Do you want to say hi to them? I’m just going to invite them into a conversation….see, they’re both online.”

She showed him how to invite them into a conversation and invited him over the back of the couch to snuggle up beside her and watch.

‘Millies says: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? We’ve been going ballistic!!!

‘Scarlett says: don’t yell, Millie…not until after she explains that last mail.

‘Charlie Tuna says: Had a little accident but Swiss Bliss rescued me.

Charlie broke into laughter as the window at the bottom showed that both were typing messages and she explained to Urs what was happening. He flipped himself over the back of the couch to snuggle up beside her, grinning and thoroughly enjoying himself being a voyeur.

‘Millie says: start at the beginning….my hands are going under my arse until I know it all

‘Scarlett: Dear god….I’m having an attack of the vapors…tell us!!!

‘Charlie tuna says: such drama queens…ok the other morning…..

She told them everything right from discovering that the house had guests, since Urs was reading what she said she sugarcoated the part about Livi but went into detail about the rescue, taking 4 full message blocks to get it all in.

‘Millie says: thank god he was there…are you sure you’re alright now?

‘Scarlett says: bastards!!! How could someone use a trap like that? What if it had been a child? What if Urs hadn’t come back to the house? You have to tell him a very very big thanks from us.

Charlie turned to smile at Urs when he tapped on her arm to get her attention.

“Let me,” he said and she watched while he used her handle and typed in a message.

‘Charlie tuna says: She’s busy right now so Swiss Bliss says you’re very very welcome….nice to speak with you in cyber space, my favorite ladies.

Charlie leaned back against the couch, amused as Urs chatted with her friends for nearly half an hour, laughing and joking with the two women he had met so many times until finally he relinquished the keyboard to Charlie and left her with a quick kiss on the brow.

‘Charlie tuna says: Urs has gone to get our dinner started. He is so incredibly sweet, so caring, even more so than we had imagined. He’s taking very good care of me and even brought his brother out to meet me. Henri is a darling as well. I feel like I’ve made two very good friends.

‘Scarlett says: Well this has certainly made my day. Urs says he won’t allow you to go out alone for a while, at least while he’s there. I agree with him. It’s just too dangerous, Charlie.

‘Millie says: He cares about you, Charlie, as a friend if not more. He really wants to go out on shoots with you, even bought a camo coverall…it will help him heal too, if you keep him busy. It’s time you let someone care for you a bit instead of being so independent. We worry about you, girl.

‘Charlie tuna says: Alright, enough with the lectures. It will be a few days yet before I can walk very far. I’m going to give Urs a tutorial on posting and using his IM so don’t be surprised if you get a message asking if he can add you to his contact list. Right now he’s making panic movements in the Kitchen so I better hobble on out there before he burns the place down.

Later, Sisters’

She signed off and used the cane to get to the kitchen and rescue the cook.

**

They spent the evening listening to music and lazing in front of the fireplace, Urs sitting sideways in one of the large chairs with his long legs over the arm and browsing through one of his motorbike magazines, Charlie sorting through her digital photo albums on line and then with one of her ever present cameras taking some candid shots of him. She had asked earlier if he would allow her to take some for her personal use only and he laughed at her, saying she could but he thought there were far too many photos of him already.

“Not like mine. I don’t want posed pics, just the real you, the man I know,” and love she almost added but paled at the thought that admitting the deep feelings she had for him could ruin their friendship.

She closed down her laptop and set it on the coffee table, stretched muscles not used to being idle for such a long period and looked up to see him watching her, his face a mix of emotions that finally settled on a look of having come to a decision and determined to see it through no matter what the consequences.

“Do you ever have a time when you aren’t so calm, so comfortable to be around…and so beautiful?” he asked with a smile and swung his legs over the arm of the chair to stand and come over to her.

She laughed and leaned her head back to look up at him.

“Yes…I have a rather vicious temper, but I keep it on a very short leash.”

He crouched in front of her and cupped her face with his large hands.

“I can almost hear your thoughts. ‘It’s too soon…he’s just broken up with Olivia.’ ….and I need to explain. I never cheated on her, not once but for the past year the feelings we used to have for each other were dead….. we didn’t enjoy each other, not in everyday life, not in bed…but it was hard to admit defeat. I think I knew the moment I met you that there was something between us, that I had been looking for you forever and finally found you…. and I think she realized it too, that’s why she blew up like that.

“If you think I’m rushing you then just know that I’ll wait. But I’ve never wanted anyone the way I want you, so much that I feel ready to explode. I watch you talking and I want to crush your mouth with mine, to taste you, to feel you against my body. When you touch me my whole body shivers and when I was so worried that maybe you were lost to me forever…I wanted to die, the pain was so sharp.

“I want to love you, Charlie… no, I need to love you. We belong together, I feel it with every fiber of my heart and body. It will happen, Charlie, if not now, then when I come back…I will find you again, the moment I’m free, I’ll find you. I’ve never felt this way about a woman before, not so quickly nor with such a burning deep inside. I don’t understand why it’s happened so fast…I just know there can be no one else for me.”

He leaned into her and caressed her face with his mouth, tiny kisses that brushed across her brow, her eyes, resting briefly at the corner of her mouth then gently touching her lips, his tongue tasting her until she moaned and opened her lips and he edged inside, groaning when she tangled her fingers in his hair and returned his kiss, her tongue entering his mouth to stroke the velvet interior, her teeth nipping his lower lip lightly.

“Charlie?” he breathed against her neck when they drew apart, needing to take a breath.

“I’ve waited longer than I thought possible already Urs…. I ache for you to make me yours.”

He drew back and stared in her glazed eyes, all the longing he had suppressed over the past few days evident in his amber depths, a slow smile creeping across his face as he eased her back on the couch and followed her body closely with his.

His hair fell forward like a curtain against her cheeks as he lowered himself gently on top of her, his arousal hard and throbbing against her stomach, his beautiful mouth scant inches from hers as he whispered to her.

“I want to make you forget you were ever with another man. You are mine, Charlie, now and always. As I am yours.”

He took her mouth, gently at first, then with increasing hunger, his hands touching her reverently, sliding up under her tee shirt to cup her breasts, stroke her sides and back, moving, always moving, the long pianist’s fingers creating a melody of rapture she had never before known, his voice soothing, enticing as he whispered, almost singing to her, trailing his lips across her skin as her shirt vanished.

He left her for a moment and she felt an ache at the loss, reaching for him when his chest with the sprinkling of curly hair was exposed to her eager hands, sighing with relief when he leaned onto her again and she felt the hard muscles, the wiry hair against her soft breasts.

He nestled against her neck and released one hand to work on her jeans, fully aware of what she looked like naked but needing to see her, touch her, taste her with a mouth that yearned for the sensation of her skin.

Her hand crept between them, caressing the taut front of his jeans, popping the button and working the zip down to release him, her small palm and fingers touching him timidly and causing him to moan with pleasure.

“Let me see you, Urs. You feel so huge. I need to see you, all of you……”

He left her again, watching her face as he toed off his slippers and yanked his socks off, hooked his fingers into the waist of his jeans and shorts and swept both to his ankles to step out of them.

The chest hair veed and thickened below his waist, ending in a nest of dark curls that surrounded his erect member that stood proudly, flushed with the extra blood of arousal, dark and solid, throbbing slightly and damp with need on the head. She licked her lips in anticipation, her eyes darkening as she breathed out one word and glanced up at his face… “Perfect!!” and she smiled as she reached out to touch him.

He moaned and threw his head back, his eyes closed, jaw clenched as he kept himself in check, wanting to fall on her and thrust inside, needing to become one with her but not yet sure how ready she was.

She rose slowly from the couch, in awe at the sight of him, running her little hands over his hips, his stomach, laying her face against his groin and making him shiver with restraint.

“You are so incredibly beautiful…like a Greek or Roman statue of a god.”

Her voice vibrated through him and he gently wove his fingers into her hair. She turned her head and let her mouth rest on his swollen shaft, touching him with her tongue, licking the length until she reached the head and engulfed him in the hot velvet inner depths to suck gently.

She pulled away and looked up at him.

“I’ve never before wanted to… you taste so wonderful…. show me what you like.”

He knelt and took her shoulders to push her back onto the couch.

“I can’t…not now…I want it to be good for you and I’m too close.”

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:41 am

Roughly he spread her knees apart and buried his mouth in her sex, making her scream with pleasure she had never before experienced. He stroked the tiny nub of her clitoris with his thumb, using his other hand to part the lips and expose the opening to her body, then plunged his tongue inside, struggling to keep his own body in check when the sweet, musky taste of her filled his mouth. He felt her orgasm start and let her ride, entering her with his long fingers and rubbing the G Spot on the front wall of her vaginal channel, at the peak moving up onto her body and guiding his penis inside the depths, sliding in easily in the wetness, caressing her mouth with his and whispering ‘Again! Come with me…”

Their bodies knew the rhythm without thought, fitting together perfectly…he raised his chest slightly on extended arms, fusing them together from navel to thighs and she wrapped her legs high around him, taking all of him into the tight, hot depths, her hands clutching at his biceps, a sound almost like purring coming from her throat, her eyes half closed but locked on his

Hearts racing, breath rapid and bodies slick with sweat they writhed together, reaching, reaching, reaching…..with cries of passion sweeping over the crest to explode in surges of pleasure and rapture that swept them beyond anything they had ever experienced, unable to breathe or move, locked together as they were meant to be.

Slowly he collapsed on her and lay unmoving, his face against her neck, gasping for air, letting the spasms of her body squeeze him in a painful pleasure he couldn’t remember ever being allowed the freedom to enjoy. Her arms were around his shoulders and his pressed tight to her sides, his fingers just touching the sides of her breasts.

He had loved her with a freshness and joy that she met with her willing participation, allowed to experience pleasures that had always been denied him before, her eagerness filling him with such joy he couldn’t restrain himself from crying out when release came.

For a moment he was unable to do more than breathe, resting against her with his face nestled into the curve of her neck.

Her legs gradually unwound from around him and lay still beside his, but when he tried to move his weight off of her she tightened her arms and wrapped one leg over his butt.

“Don’t leave. I feel so complete like this.”

He chuckled.

“I out-weigh you by about 40 kilos. How will you breathe?”

He felt her cheek move as she smiled.

“You can give me CPR.”

They lay together, compromising when he relaxed enough to slide out of her and he moved his lower body partly beside hers.

She felt him tense and turned her head to peek at him.

“Charlie, I’m sorry…I wanted you so much I never thought about protection. Next time I promise to remember.”

She smiled, relieved that he was so concerned but eager to ease his mind.

“I get shots, Urs. It isn’t convenient for me to have normal periods so I get shots every six months. Next one is in a few weeks. And I’m glad…the feeling of having you come inside me was exquisite…everything was … Thank you.”

He kissed her neck and murmured in her ear.

“I’ve never had such a responsive and tight partner……
You are amazing, my own Charlie….. you make me so happy!”

He raised his head up and gently took her mouth, exploring inside with a lazy, thorough tongue, tasting, drinking from her and chuckling when she gasped as she realized the he was ready once again.

“Ever made love in a shower, Liebe?”

She giggled and shook her head, her stomach spasming in anticipation.

“Your education is about to improve. Professor Urs’ advanced class is about to begin.”

He swept her up in his arms and carried her into the bedroom, through into the bath and set her on the counter while he adjusted the water temperature, then came back for her, nudging her knees apart and entering her body then carrying her quivering in anticipation into the shower stall to press her back against the wall, rapidly driving her up to the peak, then easing back down, again and again until she was nearly screaming with need.


****


They were still basking in the after glow when the water began to cool and they showered rapidly, soaping and rinsing each other then stepping from the now tepid water onto the bath mat to dry each other off.

She was limp and pliant in his arms when he carried her into the bedroom and lay her in the large bed, slid in beside her and pulled her tight to him, spoon fashion, tucking her head under his chin and winding his leg over top of her, one large hand resting on her stomach as she sighed and wiggled a fraction closer.

“Sweet dreams, Love,” he whispered in her ear as he closed his eyes, thanking whatever gods had led him to this unbelievable woman. She murmured something that only gradually seeped into his brain…. ‘my dreams have already come true’… and relaxed against him just as his eyes flew open and he realized that for the first time he knew what it was to be totally in love, not just the lust he had been aware of from the first day, or the affection he had at first felt for women in his other relationships, but a deep and eternal love that knew no limits. It was like the difference between finding a Euro on the street and winning multi millions in the Lottery.

He tightened his arms around her and vowed to tell her, not right away, but when he had a hint of how she felt, of why she had given herself to him so totally. Now he prayed that she loved him too…she had to…they belonged together. He dropped a kiss on top of her head and drifted off to sleep, smiling.

**

Sometime in the night she had turned so that her face was against his chest and he had rolled to his back, still with his arm curled around her, hers over his waist, one leg bent and laying on his, her knee almost nudging the curly nest at the base of his stomach.

She stretched gently, trying not to wake him and inched back to look at his dear face in repose, so peaceful, so young and strong. What had she ever done right in this life given to her to be rewarded with the gift of closeness and intimacy with this man?

It would have to have been something monumental, though she could think of nothing…perhaps it was payment in advance for something yet to be accomplished.

She breathed deep, the scent of him intoxicating, natural, a lingering scent from the shampoo and soap but the rest was a distinct personal tang that was Urs, unadorned …sensual, slightly musky yet clean and fresh like the newly fallen snow or trees disturbed by a passing forest denizen. If only he could bottle it, women everywhere would buy it for their men and spend days just breathing it in.

He stirred and his eyelids fluttered, the long dark lashes quivering as he made ready to open his eyes and she smiled, eager to look into their depths, eager to see if he regretted their night or remembered it with affection.

He opened his eyes and smiled, turned his head to look at her and tightened the arm that circled her body, pulling her closer.

“Happy New Year, Beautiful. My dreams were so full of you I was almost afraid to wake up in case none of it was real.”

She chuckled and let her hand tickle gently through his chest hair, slowly wandering.

“Well, I dreamt about breakfast in bed with Professor Buhler.”

He frowned and tried to look serious but his breathing was becoming rapid and he shivered as the sheet rippled with the effect her touch was causing.

“It’s a little early to call Henri now…. And I doubt if he would cheat on Julie.”

She giggled. “Wrong brother, fool. I have who I need right here.” Her cool, little hand neared the prize and teased, circling and he groaned.

Charlie pushed herself up on her elbow and leaned her face close to his to tease his mouth with her tongue.

“Show me what you like, Urs. I want to learn how to please you.” She took his mouth gently but he was becoming frantic with the teasing and grasped her hair to devour her, his free hand gripping hers and moving it to his shaft, folding around the rigid member and showing her how to stroke, leaving her to explore while he skimmed his fingers over her skin, kneading her breasts, sucking on her swollen lips, gasping for breath when she left his mouth to lay a trail of fire down his body, her hair tickling his thighs when she rested her head on his groin and sucked gently on the silken sacs then fondling them with a cool hand while she licked her way up to the head and sucked him into the velvet depths of her mouth.

He reached for her and found her wet and ready, slid two fingers inside her and touched the G spot with clever fingers that caressed, inflaming an already fierce flame, making her shudder.

“Sit on me, Love. Take me inside…make us one.” Quickly she straddled him and, with his hands on her hips, guided him into her depths, lowering herself on his shaft, her legs folded along side his sweat slick body.

He watched her face as she rode him, grinding down onto him, raising and lowering as he bucked under her, her eyes glazed and mouth open, He reached up and touched her lips and she sucked his fingers into her mouth, her hands on his male nipples, tweaking them between her fingers and laughing when he moaned. He flipped them, ending with her on the edge of the bed, her legs over his shoulders while he pumped into her, his large hands under her bottom, raising her hips to go deeper. The first ripples of her orgasm squeezed his shaft and he crested the peak, spurting into her in spasms that seemed never ending, the ripples of her muscles shivering along the length of him, robbing him of breath though he cried out her name with the last of his strength as she arched her back and held tight against him.

After what seemed forever, the passion of release ebbed and allowed them to collapse and he twisted them to fall on the sheets with Charlie on top, still fused together, able only to breathe in gasps as they clutched the sheets with nerveless fingers.


***

When he had regained partial control of his body Urs wrapped his arms around her and shifted her upwards until he could reach her mouth.

“Charlie, my own sweet Charlie. You feed this hunger I have for you until I think I’m about to die. I’ll never feel whole again unless you are in my arms. I don’t understand but I know one thing to be true….I love you, Charlie, I love you, now and forever.”

He kissed her tenderly, his mouth touching hers with reverence, needing no more words to convince her that he accepted, indeed welcomed this new, unexpected emotion and she returned his kiss, beginning to sob with the joy of hearing him express his love.

“And I love you, Urs, more so now that I have actually been with you in person, not just in my dreams.”

He chuckled and held her eyes with his.

“You dreamed about me?”

“Only every day for over a year. Real life is much better.”

His eyes darkened with remembered passion even as his body relaxed and they separated slightly.

He cradled her face against his neck and rocked their bodies gently, trying in his logical Swiss way to make sense out of this whirlwind they seemed to be caught in.

“What do we do now? I can’t bear the thought of leaving you to go on the tour. And you have your work which will take you off in different directions….”

She sighed, her breath warm against his neck and he could feel her cheek move in a smile.

“We treasure the time we will have for the next two weeks and trust that a solution will present itself. I have loved you from a distance for a long time, Urs. If what we have is real, it will endure.”

They fell asleep once more, wrapped together, content for the moment to let the fates. that had brought them together find a way to keep their love alive.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:43 am

CHAPTER ELEVEN

The banging on the front door finally penetrated through the fog of sleep and Urs slid out from under Charlie to grab his jeans and race to the door, wanting to stop the noise before it woke Charlie.

Henri took one look at his half clad, tousled brother and burst into laughter. It looked like the charms of the little red head had finally broken through the cool control Urs had for far too long kept around his heart.

“Looks like we picked a poor time to visit,” he said, chortling even more as he brushed past Urs into the house and caught the elusive but distinctive scent of recent lovemaking. He was followed closely by a tall figure who merely grinned and clapped Urs on the shoulder as he passed.

“Peter…what…Henri…?”

Peter shucked his jacket and hung it on the hook beside the door, toed off his heavy boots and rubbed his hands together to warm his fingers.

It was evident that he was related: The almond eyes which sparkled as Urs finally remembered to zip his jeans and shut the door; the thatch of thick pure white hair, a little longer than most men in their mid 50’s preferred; the well defined rangy body and intelligence evident in his unspoken demeanor. Uncle Peter, his mother’s younger brother, Dr. Peter Osler, chief medical officer of Lucerne SAR, retired Chief of Surgery in the Opthalmology Department of the Clinic in Bern.

“Henri mentioned to me that you were out here and the young lady you rescued had injured her ankle and foot. I though I would drop by and add my examination to the one Jan has already done as a guise for visiting with my favorite nephew.”

“What?” Henri bellowed much to Urs dismay, expecting Charlie to come hobbling in at any moment to see who was being killed.

“You always tell me I’m your favorite.”

“You are…when Urs isn’t home.”

Urs grinned at Henri and motioned them into the kitchen.

“Make some coffee, Baby Brother, while I see if Charlie needs any help.”

He retreated to the bedroom and found Charlie in the bathroom, partly dressed and sitting on the stool brushing her hair, such a simple act but his heart thudded at the sight of her.

“I’m sorry. It’s Henri and my uncle Peter. He’s a doctor, wants to look at your foot.”

She smiled at him and reached up to caress his cheek.

“Don’t be so upset, Urs. I like Henri and I’d love to meet more of your family. You have to get over expecting me to react badly to unusual circumstances. I don’t break or panic easily.”

He hugged her and was about to say he was sorry again when she put her fingers over his mouth.

“Get some clothes on…. And Urs….” She paused and looked down at his bulging jeans with a grin.

“If you’re going to fly the flag at half mast, I would suggest shorts, tight ones.”

He flushed then roared with laughter, patted her firm butt as she sidled past him and went into the bedroom to get more clothing.

Charlie pulled her jeans on then used the cane to get to the kitchen, smiling at Henri and shaking her head when he spotted her and offered his help.

“Thanks, Henri…I’m not very fast but I manage.” She held her free hand out to Peter as she neared and smiled as she gave him a quick appraisal.

“You must be Peter…the family resemblance is amazing. Does it hold true into the next gene pool as well or is it diluted by marriage?”

Peter laughed and kissed the hand she had extended to him.

“It seems a dominant rather than a recessive gene. And I recognize you as well…Charmaine Perkins. I have your coffee table book, the one on Lepidoptera, Heterocera as well as a series of incredible stills from Yellowstone. Amazing body of work.”

“Thank you. My friends had fears I was becoming a creature of the night while I did the book on Moths …Millie even kept checking my teeth to be sure I didn’t have vampire tendencies.”

“Millie…that’s one of the friends you dedicated the book to.”

“Yes…Millie and Scarlett, my two best friends. Scarlett had just gone through a rather unpleasant divorce and she spent a lot of time with me on shoots. She was very patient and Millie took care of both of us while we slept during the day, running interference with all the pesky people who insist on keeping regular hours.”

She was about to heave herself up onto the stool beside Peter when two strong hands grasped her waist and lifted her easily.

“I see you’ve met…Liebling, you want a coffee?” Urs asked, completely ignoring the grin Henri shot his way.

Charlie turned her head to look at him and smile as she accepted his offer. He trailed his hand gently over her neck as he went around the counter to get them both a mug, not noticing the frown that Peter shot at Henri who had been just about to say something teasing to Urs but changed his mind

“I would like to inspect your ankle while I’m here, just to make the visit official. Now that I’m retired I find it difficult to accept that I don’t have to account for every minute…old habits, you know.”

Charlie laughed and raised her leg to deposit her foot on Peter’s knee.

The swelling was down considerably though the bruising was worse, dark purple and black from below mid calf to toes.

Peter had removed Urs’ sock and palpated the area gently, not surprised when she winced a bit but on the whole pleased with the progress.

“Jan was correct. I detect no fractures and the swelling is receding I believe. A couple of days longer and you should be able to discard the cane.”

Peter drew the sock back over her foot and patted her knee before she lowered her leg back down to rest the foot gently on the rung of the stool.

“So, only a few days longer then you lose your patient, Dr. Urs. What are you going to do with all your free time then?” Peter’s eyes twinkled as he teased his young nephew.

Urs grinned and purposefully kept from looking at Charlie.

“Well I thought I might take up a new career… Nature Photography. I bought a white camo outfit in Lucerne and plan on tagging after Charlie when she’s fit to go out again.”

Her head shot up from where she had been sipping at her drink and she stared at him wide eyed.

“I don’t remember inviting you. I work alone, Urs.”

“Not anymore….if there’s one trap out there, there might be more…we can’t be sure until spring when the Rangers plan on doing a thorough search. I’ll be very quiet, very submissive but I am going with you.”

Peter and Henri shared a quick glance, both familiar with the determined look on Urs’ face, both wondering how Charlie would react to the stubborn, immovable wall he could present at times.

She must have seen some of the determination for she stared at him a moment then burst into giggles.

“My own personal slave…I think I like this idea. You have no idea what you’re letting yourself in for.”

Peter chortled happily as he saw the look of dismay cross Urs’ face, wondering what devilish ploy she was thinking up.

“I had another motive for coming out here…I’m having a small gathering of close friends at my home this evening to celebrate the first day of the New Year…nothing fancy but I wondered if I could entice both of you into attending?”

Quiet gatherings at Peter’s home were the parties of legend, his friends an eclectic mix of rich and not so rich, academics and shopkeepers, an ageless mix that crossed genders and cultures and became a cohesive, unusual blend with the conversation and laughter flowing as freely as the open bar. One of his passions was a love of the culinary arts and, though he didn’t produce all of the food for his affairs, still his contributions took center stage.

Urs was eager to attend but a little apprehensive about Charlie coping with her injured ankle.

“What do you think, Leibeling? Would it be too much, too soon?”

“If it is we can come home, or I can park somewhere with my foot up. I’d love to Urs…. And after all I get to take my own personal slave with me.” She grinned at him.

“I think I’m in trouble,” he murmured before turning to Peter and asking what time and what the dress code was.

Peter smiled, pleased that they had chosen to come.

“Eight o’clock, casual elegant. And yes, Charlie, you may bring your camera. Oh and BTW…. I have a very attractive cane you may borrow for the evening. It was my late wife’s and you are about her size.”

The two men left shortly after and Urs tidied up the mugs before helping Charlie down off the stool and using the opportunity to kiss her while his arms were around her.

“I just can’t get enough of you,” he whispered against her neck when they could again breathe.

She giggled and it made his heart skip.

“I’ve noticed. No problem, Swiss Bliss. I have such a hunger for you,” she almost purred in his ear as she touched her tongue to the curve and slid her mouth down to suck gently on his lobe, making him shudder and tighten his arms around her.

They had been exploring each other, languidly taking their time on the thick rug in front of the crackling fire when Urs mobile rang. He ignored it, intent on an inch by inch inspection of the smooth skin of Charlie’s flat stomach but it rang again and he cursed, reaching for the small appliance as it danced across the coffee table emitting the first eight bars of a Nightwish track.

He flipped it open and growled into it while Charlie giggled and teased her cool fingers through his body hair.

“Ja?”

“’Allo…Urs? Ces Moi, Sebastien.”

Urs sighed, happy to hear his French friend’s voice but thinking how his timing sucked.

“Seb…good to hear from you….are you in Paris?”

He heard the chuckle and knew that Seb had something important to tell him, guessed immediately what it was but waited, not wanting to spoil the fun.

“Non, I am in Nice….with the woman who has just consented to wear my ring. Renee says she will marry me as soon as I can arrange it. I had to share this with you.”

“Congratulations, mon ami. I am happy for you both…though I think Renee could have done better.”

He pulled the phone away from his ear while Seb ran through a fairly extensive vocabulary of uncomplimentary French phrases.

“I’m impressed…you must really love the woman. Will she go on the tour with you?”

Seb was laughing, obviously being distracted by the pretty woman he had met in Oz, the woman he had fallen hard for and wanted to be with forever.

“Non…not at first. She will work in Sydney for a while longer and then come with us as PA when we do the tour in OZ for the remainder of the tour. We want to marry tomorrow…very small and private….it is too quick to have my Divo brothers here but we did want you all to know.”

“Seb, I’m so happy for you and Renee…give her a big kiss from me since I can’t be there to do it myself.”

“You keep your mouth off my woman, Swiss!!....I am all the man she needs.”

Urs smiled and nodded even though Seb couldn’t see him.

“Yes, mon ami…I believe you are. Happy New Year, Sebastien, and Renee too.”

There was silence for a moment after Seb wished him a Happy New Year as well.

“Urs…you sound different…is everything all right?”

Urs grinned at Charlie as she lay back on the rug watching him and reached for her hand to clasp it firmly.

“Everything is wonderful, Seb. Livi and I are no more…and I found the woman who makes me feel complete as a man. Life is good, Seb, life at last is very good.”

“Are you sure, Urs?”

Urs knelt down beside Charlie and lowered himself onto the top of her body, her soft hands creeping up around his neck to play gently in his hair.

“Seb, you know how it feels when the music is perfect, the harmonies just right, the way it fills your body and your heart feels like it will stop if you don’t let your voice flow out to the world?....that’s how Charlie makes me feel only a hundred times more. I’m sure Seb, very sure.”

He heard Seb speaking to him but had dropped the phone to taste her mouth, his hands now too busy caressing the body he wanted desperately to join with to bother holding a phone. Charlie’s hands grasped the rug, clenching from the intense pleasure but she felt the phone and picked it up, raised it to her swollen mouth and softly gasped into the mouthpiece.

“Urs can’t come to the…. the phone right now…..oh god….oh Urs, don’t stop…he’s….busy…taking me to Paradise…..OH!! Yes!!! ….” She closed the mobile and dropped it to the rug.

Far away in Nice…Seb held the mobile in front of him, staring at it in disbelief for a moment, then smiling softly as he turned to Renee.

“I think our Swiss tenor has finally found the right woman,” he said and pulled Renee into his arms for a passionate kiss that thrilled and surprised her.

“That was from Urs…..and this one is from me.”

He kissed her again and they soon were lost in the love that they too shared.

**

They lay together on the rug, basking in the afterglow and warmed by the fireplace, slowly getting their hearts to stop racing and breathing to calm. Suddenly Urs started to laugh and wouldn’t stop, rolled to his stomach beside her and raised his head once to look at her puzzled smile then began laughing again.

“I can’t believe….you said …that to Seb. He is so going to tease me when we get back together.”

She grinned at him.

“Well you were busy…and I didn’t lie….you take me where I’ve never been before. Anyway it seemed rude to just hang up.”

He rolled again to lie on his side and held his head up with one bent arm, his other hand trailing lightly over her skin, smiling when she shivered under his touch.

“We need to figure out something for your feet…..unless you feel comfortable wearing one of my ski socks to the party.”

She chuckled and raised a hand to caress his hair.

“I’ll think of something. I have a pair of silver sandals that might do it…but I need to paint my nails if I wear them.”

“Painted nails and sandals…you’ll be the hit of the party dressed like that.”

She laughed.

“I hate to attract attention so I think I’ll find something to add to the ensemble. But first I need a shower.”

She leaned forward to kiss him gently then used his body to push herself to her feet, putting weight gingerly on her sore foot and smiling when he stood and picked her up.

“One shower coming up, M’lady.”

Showering took a while since he was in a playful mood but after almost running out of warm water again they dried off and Urs sat her on the counter, wrapped in one of the thick towels while he sat on the stool with another around his hips and insisted on painting her toenails with silver nail-polish.

“You’re very good at this…I do believe you’ve been practicing.”

“Lazy sisters…haven’t done it for a while though. There now, just let them dry. Hold your hands out….do you want them done too? Your slave is willing to please you.”

He stood and nudged her knees apart, standing pressed against her and smiling, that slow, seductive smile that made her heart race.

“Urs…. You make my toes curl when you look at me like that.” He leaned back and laughed.

“Then I’d better behave and not ruin my masterpiece.”

He kissed her gently then backed away, collected his shaving gear and proceeded to lather his beard.

Forty-five minutes later, still wearing towels but Urs clean shaven and Charlie sporting neat polish on both hands and feet, they sorted through their limited wardrobes trying to decide what to wear.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:44 am

CHAPTER TWELVE

The car arrived for them at quarter to 8. One of the perks of partying with Peter was that he sent transportation for everyone, both to and from his home, the specter of what he had seen so often in the hospital as a result of drinking and driving staying with him and making him adamant about providing rides for anyone who attended his parties. It was an endearing quirk that most of his acquaintances were long aware of but surprised Charlie. Urs explained that a big part of the quirk was the fact that Peter’s child hood sweetheart and late wife had been killed by a drunken driver, making his obsession with guests leaving his home safely even more ingrained.

They rode into town more or less in silence, both thinking about the coming event and worrying, just a bit.

Urs wasn’t sure if she was going along with this merely to please him, if social scenes were something she was comfortable with or if she would retreat into a corner and do a hermit act…or worse, cling to him with insecurity. Upper most in his mind was the desire to make her happy, to introduce her to friends and family he was sure would be in attendance.

He sighed as the thoughts dueled for prominence in his mind and was relieved to feel her small hand working underneath his to clasp his fingers in comfort.

Charlie caught the glimpse of a frown as he gazed out the window and mentally cursed Olivia. She would bet her best camera on the fact that he was apprehensive about tonight, wanting to attend but conditioned over the past years to not expect much freedom or social skill from the French woman.

She smiled as she thought about how many wounds she was going to have to soothe before Urs would trust her completely and stop using Olivia as the yardstick to measure what might happen. After the past 24 hours {a fact she had trouble herself accepting since so much had happened} he knew her body well but the rest of her was still more or less undiscovered territory. She reached over to clasp his hand and when he turned to look at her she smiled.

“I love this sort of party, don’t you? So many interesting people to chat with, people you might never have the opportunity to meet except this way.”

Urs smiled at her, thinking again how lucky he was. She had undergone a metamorphosis with ease, changing from the tom-boy with jeans and tee shirt to an elegant woman dressed in dove gray chiffon that looked stunning with the mahogany hair that she had pulled back with a diamond clip, taming the curls slightly but allowing a few to cascade idly over her slender neck. For evening she had applied a light amount of makeup to her eyes, accentuating the long lashes with charcoal mascara and liner and a dusky silvery eye-shadow that made the green in her eyes sparkle, lustrous, kiss- proof rose lipstick drawing the eyes to her full lips.

Her outfit was two piece, flowing chiffon pants in many layers that swirled when she walked and hid the vivid bruising on her ankle, and a tailored chiffon and silk shirt with flowing sleeves and wide cuffs, just a hint of cleavage showing above a narrow silver and silk belt that showed her small waist and rounded hips to advantage. Diamond studs and a thin silver chain with a diamond teardrop resting just above the swell of her breasts completed her look…elegant, casual, understated and assured.

They made a spectacular couple with Urs choosing a favorite black silk turtle neck shirt, tight enough to define his broad chest, and a beautifully tailored charcoal grey suit, pulling his hair back into a low ponytail that Charlie let loose and reformed, discarding the black elastic he had used and replacing it with a black silk one from her own makeup bag. A thin silver watch and hand wrought silver Celtic cross on a black silk thong, a swatch of a silver and black hanky in his breast pocket and his outfit was complete: the Cary Grant look of suave, confident sophisticate oozing from every pore.

It had seemed almost sacrilegious to don heavy winter boots and coats, leather gloves and thick wool scarves but one did have to be realistic in this kind of climate and they dressed for the cold, carrying their fancy ‘go to party’ shoes in a small leather satchel.

Peter’s house was on a curved street near the outskirts of Lucerne, all of the estates in the area still adorned for Christmas, the decorations for his starting at the open stone gates and continuing up the curve of the drive to two massive trees in planters at the front entrance, the house actually looming in welcoming splendor at the top of two flights of stone steps.

They exited the cab he had sent and Urs carried Charlie up the cleared steps, mentioning that the stone was heated to keep ice from forming as they passed the blue and white decorated trees and approached the massive front double doors of what looked to be almost an English manor or small castle rather than a home at the base of the Swiss Alps.

Someone had noticed their approach and the doors swung open to allow them into a carpeted foyer, a young man dressed in a black suit and white shirt shepherding them into a small room to relieve them of their coats and stand by while Urs assisted Charlie with her shoes.

“Excuse me, Miss. Dr. Osler left this for you,” the young man said with a smile and handed Charlie an ebony carved cane with a silver tip and a rounded silver knob for the hand rest.

She stood and tried it, finding that Peter had guessed right and it was the perfect length for her.

“Happy New Year, Sig. Nice to see you again,” Urs said to the young man as they went back out into the foyer and started slowly down the hall. “Is my brother here yet?”

“Yes, Sir. He arrived about 10 minutes ago with Mr. Colm Buhler and several others from the Academy. Congratulations on the success of the new album, Sir.”

Urs sighed. “Thank you….. and if you keep calling me Sir, I’m going to take you out in the snow and wash your mouth out.”

Sig backed off a bit, younger and considerably smaller than Urs, he was a bit intimidated.

“Have a heart, Urs…I’m working.”

Urs laughed and took Charlie’s free hand as Sig beetled back to his position at the door and they continued down the hall to open doors that emitted a subdued sound of many people talking and soft music playing.

“Did I remember to tell you how proud I am to be here with you? You look like royalty.” he said, stopping their forward progress just short of the doors and leaning over to kiss her gently.

“You make me feel like a Princess, Urs…”

He had a sudden urge to sweep her up the curved stairs to one of the private suites and forgo sharing her with the other party guests but just at that moment, Peter appeared in the doorway and beamed at them.

“Welcome, I’m glad you made it.” He cuddled Charlie in a hug and kissed her cheeks, taking great care not to affect her balance, then shook Urs’ hand and waved at them to come in. He looked every inch the host, dressed in a black dinner jacket and tailored slacks with highly polished shoes and a black shirt shot through with a fine silver thread, no tie, his thick white hair and smiling amber eyes the perfect compliment to his elegant clothing.

The room they entered was huge, pillared in places, the walls all taupe, the pillars marble, the furnishings an elegant mix of modern leather and antique wood or tapestry, the look one of studied elegance by some one who desired beautiful things and comfort above all else.

The arrangements were in conversation groups with spaces between to mingle, small tables interspersed here and there for convenience, the whole area lit with squat table lamps, candles in sconces and up lighting on the varied wall art, again a mix from Klees that were obviously originals, to Ansel Adams Black and Whites with stark black frames. A splash of color caught Charlie’s eye and she flushed when she spotted some of her work spotlighted on the long wall near a raised dais that held a polished ebony grand piano, a series of 16 shots, blown up to 16 by 16 size and framed in clear acrylic bands that wouldn’t detract from the content.

“I see you spotted your series…I bought them last year at the World Wildlife Federation charity auction. No one enters this room with out being drawn to them.”

They walked through the mix of people standing chatting, greeting people who recognized Urs and looked in curiosity at Charlie, reached the wall of photos and scanned them.

Charlie remembered the day so clearly: Yellowstone National Park, an out-of-control fire that had engulfed acres of the forest land, battled by determined firefighters and smoke jumpers, a terrible event that she had opted to film and been allowed, because of her reputation, to join one of the crews to document their struggle.

She had been ordered to retreat and was about to do so when a doe raced out of the haze and leapt the burning timber just feet from her, then turned and looked back. Charlie had taken several shots then focused on movement coming out of a cloud of smoke, caught the shots of a fully rigged firefighter racing flat out over the burning underbrush, vaulting over flaming tree trunks, cradling a spindly legged fawn in his burly arms, his face wearing a look of despair yet determination. Behind him the fire crowned in a boom that shook the earth but still he raced on, screaming at Charlie to run when he noticed her, sliding under the blazing tree, still holding the fawn and startling the doe into full out panic again.

Charlie followed them, still shooting, the fire all around them now, eating up the oxygen and making it difficult to breathe, the doe disappearing into the flames and smoke as they ran into a clearing that was completely encircled, the ground a mass of sliver lumps of firefighters huddled under their fire shelters. A firefighter knocked her to the ground to cover her but she kept shooting, saw the man with the fawn hurriedly covered, refusing to relinquish his burden, then the cover came over her and there was only the sound of her camera for a few minutes. She forgot to turn it off, fear had paralyzed her and the frames showed the increasing brightness glowing through the silver burn blanket, panic evident in the wobble of the frames, the increasing intensity and wrinkling of the blanket, didn’t quite capture the roar she remembered, the scream of the fire as it tried to get at the bodies of the men who had tried to defeat it.

The last shots were of the blankets being removed to reveal a world of grey with rosy embers still glowing here and there and the fire fighters arising from the ashes, one still holding a very live fawn. Nine of them, including Charlie, had survived the over burn…out of the 12 who had huddled and prayed.

“Did she make it? The doe, did she make it?” Urs asked quietly and Charlie shook her head.

“We don’t think so…they found a badly burned doe just beyond the clearing…it looked like she had turned back to look for her baby again and got trapped. But the fawn did…they paired her with a doe who lost her baby and turned them loose a month or so later.”

Urs glanced at the last shots again, one in particular that hadn’t been done quite so professionally of a very short, smoke stained person with scorch marked clothes, her teeth startlingly white in a grin that split her dirt and tear streaked face, a singed lock of red hair hanging below her blackened helmet, as she reached out trying to block the camera.

“I hate getting my picture taken,” she mumbled and both he and Peter laughed.

“Come and meet a few people and we’ll get you both a drink.”

Peter led them through the crowd and stopped now and then to introduce them to friends, found them each a glass of champagne and insisted on Charlie getting off her foot, indicating a soft wing back chair in one grouping and introducing her to Sandra, a young jewelry designer and her lifemate, Penny.

Urs joined them for a while then leaned over the back of the chair where he had been listening to their conversation as it wandered from design to music to travel.

“I see my cousin over there. Mind if I mingle for a while?”

“Of course not…. I’m fine, Urs.” She reached up and gripped his hand where it rested on her shoulder and smiled at him, then watched for a moment as he wound through the crowd, his athletic prowl attracting more than one set of female eyes.

“Wow,” Sandra said and drew Charlie’s eyes back to her.

“He is so hot….if I were straight….”

Charlie laughed. “Then I thank the gods that you’re not. Tell me something…I saw an exhibit in New York of some jewelry made by a woman I believe named Mai…it was a slender silver choker with a lit stone in the centre just at the dip of the throat…very attractive…how are those made?”

Penny began explaining and soon they were engrossed in the details.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:45 am

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Penny and Sandra drifted away after a while, replaced by a couple of other guests who began a conversation about Charlie’s work and then theirs, both of them lawyers, both fascinating to listen to and used to dominating the conversation. They went in search of more drinks and Henri joined her for a while, then the crowd around her grew as she was questioned about her travels and traded stories with a retired army colonel, now a travel agent, who had been many of the places she had visited in peacetime.

She had thrown her head back in laughter at a funny anecdote he was relating to his listeners and caught Urs watching her from across the room, his smile easy, loving, content that she was having such a good time. She sent him such a look of pure love that he almost staggered with the intensity of emotion that flooded him. He opened his eyes wide and gave her his famous blinky wink, grinning when she gasped and put her hand to her cheek, then turning to focus reluctantly on the lovely woman who was trying to capture his attention.

Twenty minutes later he wound his way through the crowd and bent over her to kiss her softly and take her hand to press against his cheek.

He was making a studied effort to ignore a brunette who had attached herself to him, trying not to be rude but incredibly bored with her limited conversational skills. He actually wondered how someone like her had managed to get invited to the party.

“Enjoying yourself, Liebeling?” he said as he perched on the arm of the chair and rested his hand on her shoulder.

She giggled inwardly, for a fleeting moment thinking it might be fun to tease him about his stalker but discarding the notion as cruel.

She placed her hand on his firm thigh, felt his muscles jump at the contact and smiled…okay, that was enough of a tease.

“Very much…I’ve met so many interesting people. Peter’s head gardener is here and promised to help me plan the garden in the spring…if I get the house.”

She saw the brunette melting back into the crowd and smiled. Hopefully that would be the last they saw of her.

“I think Peter is going to announce that the buffets are ready, soon. Hungry?”

“Always…but I would like to use the Ladies first.”

“Great,” he said as he stood. “I’ve been wanting to get my arms around you for the past hour… Up we go, my Princess.”

He excused them to her new friends and scooped her up into his arms in a swirl of grey chiffon and she laughed as he made a path through the people to the hall and up the stairs.

Like the rest of Peter’s home the stairs and upper hall were done for comfort more than elegance but in not striving for the unnatural, a form of undeniable elegance had been achieved. The walls were lined with treasures of the art world, some rare and priceless some merely pleasant, pieces that Peter enjoyed and wanted to see daily.

A glass étagère from the 16th century held a collection of uncut gems stones, each displayed with pride on a tiny velvet covered stand, everything from small raw emeralds to blobs of amber bearing fossilized remnant of insects or bone…a grey brown shard of something that looked like a left over bone from a Lammergeyer’s lunch was in fact labeled as a bone shard from the Alberta Sand dunes where dinosaur remnants had been found.

They entered one of the suites, which Urs explained was a guest room, somewhere he had stayed on occasion. He veered across the sitting room and through the bedroom door, took a sharp turn toward the high four postered bed, whingeing when she laughed and insisted that he had to wait.

He left her in the luxurious bath room, returning to the bedroom and gazing out the window, grinning, happier than he had been for years.

He thought about watching her as she met new people and interacted with them, loved the way she met and held their eyes and responded to the conversations, laughing easily, offering comments, actually smiling at him when she saw him talking to a few different beautiful young women as he made a circuit of the room. And he felt pride at the comments that had had been offered to him from people who met her, chatted and moved on, eventually talking with him and commenting on the ‘delightful young woman’, ‘that intriguing photographer’, ‘the lovely young lady…you must bring her to dinner before you leave on tour’, ‘what an interesting life she has led….I enjoyed our conversation’, and his favorite, ‘don’t let this one get away, young Urs…she’s a keeper’ from an elderly retired teacher he had known from his Academy days.

“Hey,” he heard her behind him and turned to quickly cross the room to her and fold her into his arms with a contented sigh.

“I love you, Princess. I love you so much it fills my entire body, my heart, my mind, my soul.”

“Oh, Urs, I love you the same way, more than I ever thought would be possible….but are you sure? You don’t even know me, not really.”

“I’m sure that we belong together…the rest will come with time. I’m sure that I will never love another woman the way I love you.”

She looked up into his glistening eyes and gave him the pledge he wanted, the one she had kept secret in her heart for months.

“I will never love another man the way I love you, Urs, with my heart, with my body, with my life. I am yours, now and forever.”

There was no lust in the kiss they shared, a tender kiss of promise, longing and commitment. After long minutes of staying clasped in the love that enveloped them they returned to the party, both sharing a secret that was evident to some, for it shone like a beacon when they looked at each other and smiled tenderly.

**

It was very late when they returned to the little farmhouse, loath to leave the company that had kept them intrigued, laughing and talking to various groups while they shared plates of the tempting buffet Peter had provided. His contributions this night had been a generous selection of tapas, the small dishes of varied foods so commonly served throughout Spain, delectable treats that inspired the senses, begged for yet more tastes, spicy, smooth, creamy and chunky, delights that made the diner eager to try more. Urs, of course sampled many of the display of sweets, being very restrained and taking small pieces but making up for his bite sized selections by having some of everything, sometimes more than once.

They had shared a table in the spacious dining area with Peter and Henri, though both were seldom seated for long, spending a great deal of time circulating.

Urs’ cousin, Colm, joined them part way through the meal, again a relative that was easily identified as part of the clan by his eyes and thick hair, chiseled features. He was 10 years older than Urs, a very successful architect and after chatting for a while with Charlie got involved in a conversation about renovating the farmhouse while keeping the character of the place.

Like Peter, Colm was also a widower, his bride of only 2 years having succumbed to cancer at about the same time as Peter’s wife was struck down by a drunken driver and died instantly. He was a delightful man, quick witted and interesting, tall like most of the Buhler relatives, well traveled due to his business, easy to talk to, like Peter and Urs, the object of many interested looks from the single women at the party, but not interested.

Colm took Charlie’s hand as he was about to leave and kissed her fingertips gently, tilting his head with the grey streaked dark hair on the side in a gesture that was so like Urs that Charlie had to smile.

“Urs is a very lucky man, little Charlie. If he treats you badly, let me know. I have been looking for a special woman to fill my life for a few years now and you have all the qualities I admire. You don’t perhaps have an older sister do you?”

She looked at the smiling man, liking everything about him but not tempted…except….

“NO, no blood relatives…but I do have a couple of very close friends that I call my sisters. I’m tempted to call them to come and meet you and Peter, very tempted.”

She smiled at him, letting him treat her comment as a jest though in her heart she could picture Scarlett and Millie with these two men, happy, fitting in perfectly, a happily ever after scenario most often only found in fairytales.

Now in the taxi returning to the house her mind drifted as she thought of the fleeting plan she had formulated during a lull in the conversations flowing around her.

Both of the girls would relish a quick trip to join her in Switzerland….perhaps…..

“You have a devious smile on your face…what are you plotting?” Urs soft voice broke into her deliberations and she giggled.

“Just playing mental matchmaker…. I wondered what would happen if we introduced Millie and Scarlett to Peter and Colm.”

He laughed at her then thought about it for a moment.

“Do it….I love my relatives dearly but I wouldn’t mind at all if they felt about those two the way I feel about you. There’s been something about Millie and Scarlett that I’ve felt good about right from the first meeting.”

They laughed and planned the rest of the way home and though it was late, Charlie sent both of the women an e.mail inviting them to come for a few days.

By the time they had unwound and taken quick showers it was pushing 3 a.m. and they slid under the duvet in the bed they shared, tired, content with being clasped close, breathing in the soft scent of each other, feeling the warmth that radiated from the skin to skin contact.

She was nearly asleep and Urs was drifting when he heard her whisper against his chest.

“Sleep well, Love…I have expectations of a very pleasant breakfast in bed when we wake.”

He chuckled and murmured against the top of her head.

“I’ve heard that the early morning service in this place is quite remarkable.”

She giggled and nestled even closer, her hand creeping half under the waist band of his shorts and resting there against his stomach as she let sleep take her.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:46 am

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Breakfast in bed had been even more remarkable than she had expected, so much so that they both needed showers again before wandering towel clad into the Kitchen for coffee. While it was seeping through the filter and brewing, Urs pinned her to the front of the refrigerator and explored, capturing first one then the other of her tingling breasts in his mouth to nibble and suck, ‘snacking’ he said though she told him she didn’t care what he called it so long as he didn’t stop.

Eventually they got around to coffee and talked about the plans for the day.

“I think Colm and Henri are coming out later. Henri is at loose ends…he got a call from Julie…Her mama is ill and she won’t be back for another couple of weeks. And Colm has a new sno-mobile that he wants to take for a run. You feel up to having company and maybe going for a ride?”

“Oh, yes, please….I haven’t been on one for years, since Canada. But I would prefer if they didn’t go up the hills near the forest. It frightens the wild life too much.”

“Agreed…. There are plenty of trails in the open, no need to encroach.”

Charlie browsed through the freezer and pulled out a Frenched Pork loin roast for dinner, checked the vegetable bin and found some of the small red potatoes she liked to do around it as well as a bag of onions to roast with a bread crumb stuffing and two very large apples to core and put in with the roast for the last half hour. That plus a salad should cover most of the meal. She glanced at the remains of the chocolate torte and smiled, pulled out a pie that she had made on a stormy day and set it to defrost for a while.

“Urs, I’m going to throw a load of dark clothes in the washer…. Bring your darks out and I’ll do them too.”

They worked together to tidy and dust the Lounge, Urs cleaned the bathrooms while Charlie made them each a couple of sandwiches for a late breakfast, early lunch, unloaded the dryer and they folded the clothes together then a sat at the counter, enjoying their lunch, pleased with their efforts, talking about his upcoming tour.

“We start off in Kuala Lumpur on the 16th then it’s criss-crossing all over the place after that. We even have a couple of dates in Africa in late February, March 1st. I was looking forward to it but now…I hate the thought of leaving you.”

She smiled at him and took his hand.

“I know, Urs, but you need to tour to keep your music out there, to get solidly established…and I have commitments that require me to travel too. We’ll have to use the internet to keep in touch and when I can I’ll adjust my schedule to meet up with you. My time is much more flexible so we’ll work it out.”

He smiled sadly then perked up.

“I need some pictures of you to take with me, something I can look at when I get lonely. It hardly seems fair that you have stacks of photos of me but I have none of you.”

He made puppy dog eyes at her and she cracked up, laughing until he did too.

“Okay, I give up. I’ll give you one of my digitals, all you have to do is point and shoot. Whatever turns out fairly good we can print and put in a mini album for you.”

He was pleased with the prospect and asked for it right away so he could get a shot of her wearing a towel, adding that it was something to look at before he went to his empty bed at night.

They spent an hour playing with the camera while Charlie posed for him, art poses that almost showed most of her assets….he was very good at suggesting ways to pose, though a few of them made him uncomfortable enough that he had to stop and embrace her with a very eager mouth and hands that couldn’t stop wandering.

Finally Charlie had had enough and went in the bedroom to get dressed, was just pulling on her panties when she heard him behind her taking yet another risqué photo and whirled around to grab the camera.

“Sorry, I got carried away…..” he said with a grin

She laughed and told him to delete the ones that revealed too much.

“Okay…. As soon as I figure out how to do it,” he said with a grin and she laughed as she showed him how.

They were both outside when the guys arrived.

Urs had dug out the Jeep while Charlie tried out her bad ankle, walking very delicately with her bear paws. He took a few shots of her then helped to roll a couple of large balls of snow and lifted two up to make a snow man that she decorated with cones from the trees and an old scarf that had seen better days. They made snow angels and held hands, naming their creation ‘Angels in Love’, and totally obliterating the outline when Charlie slipped a hand full of snow down the neck of Urs jacket and he tackled her, rolling them over and over in the drift until they both had snow in their hair and down their jackets, both rosy cheeked and laughing until he kissed her and their passion lit once more.

They discovered that her cold hand stuffed inside his jeans and snow pants did NOT act the way a cold shower would, in fact just the opposite and he began to work frantically on her outdoor clothing, needing to gain access to her body.

Just as they had decided that they better take themselves into the house to continue, the sound of snow-mobiles could be heard coming up the drive to the house and Henri and Colm arrived.

Urs zipped up her jacket and snow pants while she quickly covered the prize she had been playing with. He put his gloves back on, helped Charlie to her feet and grinned at her, leaning over and whispering…. “don’t think for a minute that I’m going to forget where we left off….”

They spent a couple of hours touring around the open fields at the bottom of the tree line, enjoying the view and the speed of the powerful machines, stopping at the crest of a hill for a mug full of the hot soup Colm had brought with him, looking out over the crisp snow to the city below and the distant ski hills, the lake a smooth disk of white with a few cleared patches where people were skating.

Urs and Henri indulged in a wild snowball fight and Charlie took advantage of it, shooting footage for her personal collection, adding some of Colm when he joined in, switching from side to side until both brothers, with unspoken agreement, turned on him and together pelted him until he collapsed, laughing too hard to retaliate.

Urs came back to her then and leaned in to kiss her, snaking his cold hands under her jacket and shirt to make her scream as his icy fingers made contact with her skin.

They went inside to thaw out and so Charlie could get dinner started, the men sitting in front of the fireplace, sipping a hot mulled cider Urs made for them, making plans for skiing in the next couple of days while Charlie put the roast in the convection part of the oven.

“Would you mind terribly if I went along?” Charlie asked and Urs looked at her in surprise.

“Honey, you can’t ski with that ankle….won’t you get bored?”

She grinned at him.

“Not so long as I have my cameras…I wouldn’t mind getting some shots of skiers and snow boarders….. it’s great back ground material for anything that might come up or action shots…. I’ve got a new Zoom that I’ve been itching to try out.” She looked at him and added: “I never get bored. There’s always something to see.”

They arranged a time and Urs promised to meet them both at the patio restaurant where he planned on installing Charlie with a good view of the hills.

For the next hour the talk rambled from skiing to family, to Colm’s work, to Henri’s anecdotes about some of the really dumb things his students had attempted, claiming that they were ‘experiments’. Henri spotted Charlie’s double cribbage board and had to have the game explained to him, then wouldn’t settle until they played a game. They played partners and after Urs and Charlie beat the two novices 3 games straight, Charlie claimed they were no challenge and she was going to finish the prep for dinner.

Colm and Henri got involved in the game while Urs helped Charlie in the kitchen. He took over peeling the small potatoes when she showed him to just take out any imperfections and peel a strip around the middle of the little spuds. Charlie took the outer skins off the onions and scooped out a small portion of the center, threw together a bread crumb mixture with some grated carrot and spices, stuffed the cavity in each onion and drizzled them with Olive Oil then left the whole thing on the top of the Aga on a covered plate.

She split the two apples in to halves and cored each, filled each with raisins that had been tossed in some melted butter and a few walnuts from a jar labeled TW {Toasted Walnuts} and a bit of finely chopped celery, topping the whole mixture with a scant shake of cinnamon and brown sugar. The apples joined the onions. Urs had finished the potatoes and she had him sprinkle them around the roast with some baby carrots, rolling them in the pan juices to help with a light browning, then asked him to get a large clear glass jar off a top shelf so she could make biscuits, the same basic mix he had used the day before.

These she didn’t measure, just eyeballed the amounts and soon had a tray full under a towel ready to go in the oven.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:46 am

They raided the frig and made a salad of everything they could find, adding a tin of mandarin oranges at the last and tossing the whole thing lightly with a raspberry vinaigrette from the frig.

The apples and onions went in the Aga and they went back to the Lounge to check on the players, hoping that the competition hadn’t become too serious. Henri was cheating outrageously, taking points he didn’t earn every time Colm looked away but still losing in a big way.

“He’s a very intelligent man, my brother but has no card sense,” Urs said to Charlie in a mock whisper that could have been heard in Lucerne.

Colm looked up and grinned.

“You mean the cheating? He’s always done it. That’s why no one ever will play him for money.”

Henri threw his cards down and scowled at them, then burst into laughter.

“I thought I got away with it. That’s why I never go to Monte Carlo. I’d probably get black listed in all the Casinos.”

Charlie laughed at them and rose to set the table and put the biscuits in but Urs nudged her into the depths of the wing chair and said he would do it. He dropped a light kiss on the top of her head and she squeezed his hand as he trailed it over her shoulder then went off to the kitchen.

When her gaze came back to Henri and Colm both men were grinning at her.

“I’ve never seen him so happy. You’re good for him, Charlie,” Henri said softly, smiling at her.

Charlie met his eyes and smiled too.

“He completes me as a person, Henri. I’ve waited all my life for him.”

Colm grinned at her.

“I never believed in love at first sight before but you two…. I’m a convert now. Now if it could just happen to me…..”

Charlie looked at him with a secret smile on her face.

“It can happen, Colm. You never know when.”

Henri rose and came over to take her hands and kiss her on the cheek.

“If you ever need my help, for anything, Little Sister, you have but to ask.”

“Hey…I turn my back for a moment and you’re making out with my girl? Back off…I think I can still take you, Henri.” Urs was smiling when he teased them but there was an edge to his voice that made Henri laugh.

“I just asked her to run off with me but she says I’m the wrong brother.”

“Of course…Charlie has excellent taste. Speaking of taste, I think dinner is about ready. Liebe could you check if the biscuits are done?”

Charlie took the biscuits out a few minutes later, Urs slid the defrosted pie in the warming oven to heat through and they all sat down to eat.

**

It had been a very late night again, the time flying as the four contented people sat around the Lounge chatting and sipping on more mulled cider. Urs and Charlie shared one of the wing chairs comfortably with the cousins sharing the couch until Colm fell asleep about 1 a.m. and Henri tipped him over, lifted his feet up and tossed the throw over his snoozing body.

“He sleeps like the dead, always has. It’s just as well, it really isn’t safe for him to ride the machine with all that cider in him. You don’t mind do you Charlie?”

“Of course not…stick a pillow under his head, Henri or he’ll have a crick in his neck in the morning. Why don’t you stay too? There’s another bed you can have and I’ll even throw in breakfast if you get up early enough.”

Urs sent her off to get ready for bed while he straightened up a bit, put an extra blanket over Colm, and settled Henri in the room that he had shared with Livi before the split, a time that now seemed to have happened months before, not merely days.

Charlie had finished washing up and brushing her teeth, was nearly done brushing her hair when he entered the bedroom and came up behind her to take the brush and finished the job with long soothing strokes that made her want to purr.

“Do you have any idea how happy you make me?” he asked as he put the brush aside and bent down to rest his face against her neck.

She smiled at his reflection in the mirror and raised her hand to run her fingers through his hair.

“If it’s half as much as how happy you make me then you are one very happy man.”

She tilted her head, offering him her mouth and he took it gently, never breaking contact but pulling her up into his arms to hold her, gently at first, then with more and more urgency as the kiss deepened and their ever present, just under the surface, passion grew.

They drew apart and helped each other disrobe, being very neat, folding their clothing, their eyes making silent promises of what they both knew was to come.

Urs laughed quietly as he slid her jeans off and, while in the area, dipped his tongue in to her innie.

“You know, woman, you are the best workout routine I’ve ever enjoyed. No need for a gym while you are around.”

She giggled.

“It’s all part of my evil plan…I can’t stand fat tenors.”

He chuckled and lowered his head to bite her gently at the base of her neck.

“MMMM…you planning on putting your brand on me or something?” she gasped as his mouth closed over the bite mark and he sucked, hard, harder as he walked her backwards to the bed and lowered her onto the duvet, still feeding from the spot where sensations throbbed, radiating through her, making her moan and clutch his head tighter to her.

He raised his head with difficulty, her hands tight against his scalp not wanting him to stop and grinned that lazy seductive smile that made her bones melt.

“My own personal bar-code so everyone will know…you belong with me!”

She smiled and became his willing puppet, letting him love her slowly, thoroughly, unable to resist responding, wanting this night to never end.

He loved her gently, worshiping her body with a thoroughness that drove her to the peak time after time, then holding her tenderly, letting her explore, writhing under her touches, never quite calming, making the anticipation part of the rapture. He discovered areas on her that she hadn’t known were sensitive, as she did on him: the small of her back and base of her neck, his flat male nipples, his palms….nothing was overlooked.

They left the bed and Urs sat on the armless chair at the dressing table,, pulling her back onto his lap to lower her body onto his erect, dripping member, sliding inside her hot channel with a sigh and reaching around to cup her breasts as she ground onto him, moving her hips in circles then riding him as he bucked under her. He crushed her against him as the peak approached, making them strain to reach it, wrapping his arms tight around her, dropping one down to touch her just above where they were joined, stroking her clit with his thumb and nibbling on her neck …with a gasp she cried his name and clutched at his arms, her pelvic muscles caressing, squeezing him in spasms that drained the hot sperm from him and sucked it deep inside. Once more it was minutes before either could speak or move.
When he could, Urs carried her to their bed and nestled spoon fashion with her, more content than he had ever been.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:47 am

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Charlie borrowed one of Urs’ turtle necked jumpers in the morning and drew on a pair of track pants…having house guests meant they couldn’t wander around in towels as had been their habit the past few days…..and she needed to keep Henri from seeing her ‘bar-code’, simply because she knew how he would tease them both.

Colm was still sleeping when she went in the kitchen but roused quickly when the aroma of coffee reached him, giving her a brusque kiss on the cheek when she brought a mug of it in to him in the Lounge and laughed at his groggy condition.

She had left Urs digging out sausages and bacon to go on the grill and he laughed when she said that Colm wasn’t really with it yet.

“He needs a coffee transfusion before he can talk. I, on the other hand, am ready for anything.” He nibbled on her ear as she broke eggs into a bowl, making her shiver, persisting until she turned and retaliated by running her hands firmly over his jeans, dipping her fingers into his back pockets and kneading his butt through the stiff material.

“Truce!!” he gasped and raised his hands in defeat, laughing as she grinned and went back to whisking the bowl of eggs into a froth.

Both Colm and Henri arrived at the counter right on time to carry their breakfast through to the dining table: golden slabs of French toast, browned sausages and rashers of bacon, sliced fruit to decorate and balance the nutritional value, the syrups, and other condiments already on the table. Urs brought the filled mugs of coffee and the French Press that was just about ready to have the plunger depressed for the next round of coffee.

Henri kissed Charlie on the cheek as a means of wishing her Good Morning and she knew from his smile that he had heard some of what had occurred in their room during the night, though he said nothing.

“Hey…you aren’t using the cane this morning,” Colm said, finally coming to life after his second coffee.

“And I managed to get my slipper on today,” she said and raised her leg to prove it.

“You’re a lot tougher than would be expected for such a little thing,” Henri commented.

“She had excellent medical care, that’s why,” Urs bragged and received a rap on the arms from two sides as both Henri and Charlie jabbed him.

The two men left mid morning, promising to meet up the following day just before noon for lunch on the terrace and an afternoon of skiing.

Only an hour after they left Charlie received a call from the estate agent….the house was hers. The developer had run into problems with financing and since the sellers were eager to flip the place they had accepted her offer.

They bundled into Urs car for the trip to Lucerne to sign the papers for the sale and celebrated with lunch at the Bistro, which turned into an extended mini party as several friends of Urs spotted him and came over to join their table.

Charlie received some flirtatious glances from his old Academy buddies until Urs made a point of putting his arm about her shoulder and snuggling her close to him, clearly staking his territory. The women in the group, gave up trying to charm the handsome Swiss man and relaxed, making friends with the newcomer now that Urs was beyond their reach.

They dropped into the studio and Charlie developed some of the film that Urs had shot, put the photos in an envelope and they wandered along the street of shops, making a few purchases for the house, a small leather bound album for him to keep his snaps in and he dragged her into a jewelry shop when she admired a silver pendant, insisting on buying it for her: a delicate silver treble clef with an emerald in the curl at the bottom depending from a fine chain…..he asked to have it engraved but wouldn’t tell her the inscription, arranged to pick it up in a couple of days and smiled smugly when she thanked him.

“I like to do stuff for you. Really it’s very selfish…it makes me so happy to watch your eyes light up when I do little things for you.”

She hugged him, not caring that they were in a public place or that the clerk was watching them through the store window.

“This is not a ‘little thing’ to me Urs. It’s very special and I love you even more for doing it…you really are a romantic, just as I’ve always thought.”

He bent down to kiss her gently, smiling and caressing her cheek with a gloved hand before placing his arm around her shoulder and strolling along the street again.

They bought cheese and more of that lovely jam and drove leisurely back to the house, stopping at the head of the drive to look over the property with fresh eyes now that the deal had been signed.

Charlie had a far away look on her face as she looked at the fields leading up the slight incline, along the curve of the drive to the house.

“What are you thinking, Liebe?” he asked softly, not wanting to disturb her mood.

She smiled without taking her gaze away from the fields.

“I was picturing children playing in the field, chasing a couple of large dogs and bicycles laying on the grass near the house where they’ve been dropped beside beds of flowers….. and standing on the veranda looking down at them playing and laughing, calling out to come for dinner.”

He smiled.

“Boys or girls?”

She looked at him now and her eyes were glistening.

“It doesn’t matter…healthy, happy, loved…that’s the important thing.”

He took her hand and kissed it, his eyes never leaving hers.

“You forgot the motor bike…”

She raised her brows at him.

“My Harley…. It’s parked around the side right by the double garage and the garden shed, right where I left it when I went out to play with Miguel and Anastasia.”

She laughed and then began to cry, leaning against him and nuzzling her face into the curve of his neck.

“I love you Urs Buhler…so very much.”

He hugged her close then handed her a hanky to dry her tears.

“Let’s go home, Liebe.”

They spent the evening in front of the fire, making sketches on an artist pad that Charlie found, of the changes to the house, took a break to check for messages from Millie and Scarlett and picnicked on the rug with cold cuts, bread and the cheese from town, listening to classical CD’s and trying to work out an estimate of when their travels would be favorable to meet up while he was on tour.

Charlie fell asleep snuggled against him on the couch and he let her rest, watching her sweet face, the movement of her eyes under the closed lids as she dreamt, awed at the small things that made her so happy, at the way that they wanted so many of the same things from life, so full of love for her that his eyes welled with tears and his throat constricted. After a while he carried her into their bed and helped her undress, eased into bed beside her, sure that he was the happiest man on the planet earth.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:47 am

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

The days went by much too fast now. A lovely clear day spent on the ski hills, joined for a while by Peter as well as Colm and Henri, then a huge crowd of old friends who helped as they all partied the night away on the patio of the lodge, chatting about the excellent skiing, their lives that had diverged and now were touching again, however briefly.

Charlie had taken miles of shots of all of them skiing but had disappeared when they came back briefly to have a snack.

Urs found her in the centre of a knot of children near the bunny hills, being carted around on a toboggan by a couple of athletic 10 year old boys, sliding down the hills from the crest with the boys behind her on the sled and a timid little girl wrapped in her arms in front, screaming with laughter even when the sled tipped and they all rolled about in the soft snow. Later he learned that she had taken shots of the children, with parental permission and given her disc to the parents to be developed…he surprised her with the shots he had taken without her knowledge and she promised to print them.

**

They went out finally on a shoot together, the idea of the toboggan appealing to Urs and he bought one in Lucerne and used it to help her when her foot hurt. For the most part she was better, tired easily but much better and they traipsed over the hills for several days, exhausted but happy in the evenings.

His appreciation of what she did grew when he saw her patience first hand, noted the way her eyes sparkled when she saw something he didn’t at first notice, the calm, quiet way she waited for just the right shot.

They went to the waterfall and spent hours doing absolutely nothing but listen and look, wrapped against each other, enjoying the minute by minute changes in the panorama that Mother Nature provided for their pleasure.

Urs’ chilly cheek was nestled against her, his breath warm and cloudy as he murmured to her, somehow loud noises out of place in this glorious spot.

“This would be a perfect spot to pledge undying love….what do you think, Liebleing? Would you marry me here, in the late spring, with God and the forest, the falls as our witness?”

He felt her breath catch as she turned her rosy cheeked face to him.

“Don’t tease about something so special, Urs.”

He smiled that sweet, loving curving of his lips that matched the glow in his eyes.

“I’m not teasing, Love. I’ve never asked anyone before, never wanted to be married but what I feel for you….it’s the right thing for us to do, to complete the circle, to join in a bond that no one can touch. I want to marry you, my own sweet Schtute, to belong to you and you to me, the way we are joined as one in my heart.”

She leaned into him and kissed his mouth gently, her tears turning icy as they coursed down her face and he wiped them off with the back of his fingers.

“Please say yes, Charlie. Please share my life.”

“Yes!…oh yes… I will always be yours, Urs, only yours.”

They returned to the farmhouse slowly, pulling the sled with their equipment on it, Charlie refusing to ride along and let go of his hand, sharing plans and smiles that filled them both with longing. Neither could wait to celebrate their pledge, making love on the counter in the kitchen with a tenderness and joy that over powered them completely and they staggered into the bedroom to lay half clothed on the bed and rest until late in the evening.

Urs nudged her with his chin and grinned when she swatted at him, not ready to wake up yet.

“I’m starving, woman.”

“Hush, you. Did you forget where the kitchen is?”

He chuckled.

“Does this mean the romance is over?”

He nibbled on her ear and she giggled in spite of her attempts to remain impassive.

“Never…It means it’s your turn to cook…. But I’ll help.” She erupted out of bed before he could stop her and raced into the kitchen wearing only his long thermal shirt that she had pulled on earlier, rescuing it from the untidy heap on the kitchen floor.

He chased after her, hopping on one foot as he tried to pull on his long thermal pants.

Charlie had the kettle on and the bread out when he finally made it and shivered since they had forgotten to turn up the thermostat.

“Urs why don’t you light the fireplace while I throw something together for us?”

They worked well together, Charlie grilling some Ham and cheese sandwiches and heating up large mugs of soup while Urs lit the fire and picked up their discarded clothing, stopping as he passed behind her to tease his hands up under the long shirt and caress her back and butt.

“Hey…you want to eat or not?” she said with a laugh.

“Just checking on dessert,” he replied and skittered out of her reach when she grabbed for him.

They ate in front of the fire, on the rug again, leaning back on the couch, avoiding the fact that it was one of their last days of freedom before he had to leave…. until after their makeshift meal. Urs gathered her against his chest, watching the firelight reflecting off her hair and flushed skin.

“I wish the girls had managed to come visit while I was still here. It would have been nice to meet them and to see the reaction when they meet Peter and Colm. And I hate to leave you all alone…..you take too many chances, Baby. I’ll worry about you.”

She nestled into his chest and smiled at the thought of how happy he would be with a decision she had made.

“I think I’ve been far too selfish, going out on shoots alone when I could be sharing the experience with kids from the local colleges that want some field experience. So I’m going to look for talented young students that would be interested in working with me for brief spells. I have too much to live for now to be so reckless with my life anymore.”

He hugged her tighter.

“Thank God. Henri should be able to help out with that and I’ll be so relieved. But I’ll still miss you. I’ll miss having you close to touch you and watch your eyes glaze.”

He demonstrated what he meant, snaking his hand under the edge of the shirt she wore and cupping her sex, leaning over until she lay face down on the rug and he slid his body over hers, freeing his shaft from his long johns and letting it rub against her bottom. He slid his arm under her hips and raised her firm butt off the rug, teasing his shaft over her labia and entering gently, groaning when she tightened around him and thrust back to pull him in further. They moved together, quietly, slowly, building until the waiting was unbearable and she swung first one leg then the other up and over so they faced each other, her bottom on his bent knees and her legs over his shoulders…. He took her hard and fast, wild with desire, giving her what they both wanted in a frenzy of lust that drove him deeper than ever before. She came with a scream but he wanted more, demanded more, and she met him, thrusting and writhing with his frantic rhythm, peaking again when he burst into her in spasms that seemed never to end.

When he could Urs pulled the throw off the couch and spread it over their cooling bodies.

She snuggled against him and murmured against his neck.

“I like it when you lose control. I feel like no one else can make you feel that way.”

“No one ever has, Love. I thought I was going to die.”

She giggled.

“Not yet… I know how you like breakfast in bed.”

He laughed and cuddled her, closed his eyes and fell asleep.

**

They spent the last day together at home, no visitors though there were several phone calls: Steve foolishly touching base to remind Urs that he had a flight to catch in the morning, Henri calling to say ‘Bye and promising to send out a couple of eager students to meet Charlie the next afternoon, both Peter and Colm calling to say farewell and promising to keep an eye on ‘your girl’, both extending dinner invitations when they learned of her expected guests.

**

Neither of them had much of an appetite that last night, both trying to show brave faces though the thought of him leaving in the early hours of the morning was foremost in their minds.

Urs pushed his plate back, not even half finished and held his hand out to her, pulling her to her feet and into his arms when she looked up and clasped his hand in hers.

“It hurts. It hurts so much. I want to tie you up and take you with me or stay here and smash my mobile so Steve can’t get in touch.” She nestled into his chest, swaying with the music they had put on before they attempted to dine, soft, romantic tunes that were appropriate but made the thoughts of separating worse.

He danced with her held close to him, smiling and hugging her when the music from Phantom of the Opera came on, singing along with the CD, the sentiments special to them tonight.

“Think of me
Think of me fondly
When we’ve said good bye.
Remember me, once in a while-
Promise me you’ll try.
When you find that,
once again you long to take your heart back
And be free-
If you ever find a moment
Spare a thought for me.”

He leaned back from her and held her eyes, kissed the tears from her face and slipped his hand into hers, smiling when she realized that he had passed a velvet box to her…the pendant and chain from the Lucerne jewelers…he must have picked it up on his trip to buy the toboggan.

She opened the case while he watched her eyes and turned the clef over to read the inscription
‘Think of me…Love forever…Urs’

Her eyes welled with tears as he took the pendant and fastened it around her neck, with perfect timing coming in again on the end of the track.

“There will never be a day- when I don’t think of you.”

It was early but they closed the house down for the night and for a while watched the flames in the fireplace, the quiet caresses and gentle kisses growing more and more urgent, the knowledge that they would not be able to pleasure each other in this way for far too long lending a desperation to their loving.

They made it into the bedroom and collapsed together on the bed, wiggling under the duvet and lying face to face, letting their bodies cool down.

“The time will pass quickly, Urs…you will be busy with the concerts and suffering from jet lag, hopping from venue to venue…and we will talk as often as possible online. And I will join you, in Tokyo for sure, possibly again in South Africa.”

“And then it will be May and I will join you here. The falls will be beautiful in early May, the fields just bursting into blossom. Do you mind not having the big church wedding and reception, all that stuff?”

“I like to think that my priorities are elsewhere…I want our friends and your close relatives to share the day with us…nothing else matters, Urs.”

“We haven’t even talked about where we’ll live, where would be best for your work.”

“Logistics, Love, merely logistics. I can work anywhere. We should live where it’s best for your career…in another few years things will settle for you and then we can decide. For now I would live in a cave if that is where it was best for you, just so long as you are with me whenever possible.”

He had been stroking her back with his large hand but now she leaned up on one elbow and pushed him flat on his back, skimming her hand over his chest, tugging lightly on the curly hair and brushing his hand away when he tried to reach for her.

“Let me love you, Urs. Let me give you something to remember when you feel alone and tired.”

He lay back with a sigh of anticipation that soon became moans as she explored, tasted, caressed, creating a cocoon of pleasure that wrapped around him, robbing him of breath, of any sensation other than the rapture this woman, this special woman of his was creating, just for him.

He wasn’t aware of how long it lasted or exactly what was said but he knew as he clutched the sheets in nerveless fingers that he was not soon going to forget this night.

**

They were awake and in the shower well before dawn, by unspoken agreement just showering except for some very playful kisses and embraces, neither wanting to dull the memory of the love making they had enjoyed during the night.

Charlie made coffee while Urs packed his last few bits then took his cases out to the car and came back in shivering to join her in the kitchen.

“You stole my shirt,” he said as he gathered her into his arms.

“I’ll give it back in Tokyo on the 25th,” she said smiling up into his face.

He nuzzled her neck and tried to memorize the feel of her against his body.

“Don’t forget the time difference when you IM me,” he murmured and she laughed teasing him about how proficient he had become with the computer.

“Promise me you won’t go out on the mountain alone.”

“I promise….I have nearly enough shots now anyway but I’ll take Henri’s students out a couple of times. I’ll be busy trying to get Scarlett and Millie paired up with your handsome relatives.”

He laughed and let her go, reaching for the coffee she had poured for him.

“Those poor men won’t have a chance with the three of you plotting.”

She grinned and shook her head.

“Don’t be silly…Millie and Scarlett don’t know anything about our plans. I’m just going to give them a little nudge and let nature take over.”

He glanced at his watch and groaned, finished his coffee in one long gulp and took her hand to go to the door.

“I told the estate agent to send the refund cheque in your name…use it anyway you see fit, Liebe.”

He shrugged into his coat and stepped into his boots, took his gloves in his hand and stared at her sweet face.

“I don’t want to go.”

He reached for her and kissed her hard, holding her head with both hands, his fingers in her hair.

She broke away, nearly in tears but fighting it and led him to the door, opened it and went out on the veranda with him.

“Drive carefully, Urs. I want that body back in one piece in Tokyo.”

She reached up and kissed him tenderly, knowing that if she broke down and let her tears fall it would be harder for him to leave.

“Four whole days in Tokyo…minus the promos I’m sure Steve will schedule but for the first two, we may not leave the room…or the bed.”

“Oh, we can play games,” she giggled. “You know how I love to play games with Mr. Happy.”

He howled with laughter and kissed her quickly, going down the stairs to the car with a lighter step, turned as he opened the door and smiled at her.

“See you in Tokyo, Liebeling. Remember how much I love you.”

“And I love you, Urs.”

He drove a few feet then stopped and reversed the car, powering the window down.

“Charlie, go inside…I can’t leave with you watching. I can see you in the mirror and I can’t do it.”

She smiled at him and blew him a kiss, went in the house and closed the door, leaning against it and listening to the car drive off slowly, not relaxing her tense body until the sound died away.

She threw the door open and there was no car in sight. He was gone and she fell to her knees and wept.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:48 am

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Urs went through all the usual routine of returning the car, check in at the airport, a flurry of autograph signing and smiling for photos…all done on automatic as his mind was elsewhere…back at the farmhouse, thinking of her, wondering what she was doing, worried that she felt as bereft as he did.

He waited in the VIP lounge for his flight to be called, nursing a coffee and staring blankly into space, filled with the urge to chuck everything and rush back out to her and never leave. Only his thoughts of how she would wrap herself in his arms and then rake him over the coals kept him from doing it. She would be angry with him, they would have their first fight and he smiled as he wondered what Charlie was like angry. Explosive, he bet and really didn’t want to put it to the test.

His flight was called and he boarded, got settled in his seat and leaned back to let his mind wander.

Such a short time span and so much had happened. It filled him with awe when he thought of the unrestrained love she offered him and the feelings that filled him totally, enhancing his life rather than disrupting it. Just the thought of her made him feel like he could do anything, achieve his goal of success, sing better, with more feeling, endure the traveling, the lack of sleep, the frantic pace of a World Tour. Yes, he would miss having her close enough to touch, to love physically but she would be there for him, this he knew without a doubt. His Charlie would always be there for him.

He took out the small album he had stuffed in his carryon and flipped through the pages, smiling at the first shots he had taken of her wearing the towel and working in the kitchen, dancing, brushing her hair….then the slightly blurry ones of playing in the snow with Henri and Colm, her face frosted with snow but her grin wide and natural as she threw snowballs back at them, some from the ski hills on the toboggan, others taken while she was watching a trail intently wondering what bird had made the tracks, still more of her on the snowmobile with Colm and several from the party at Peter’s.

He sighed and slid the album back in the pocket of his case and leaned back in the seat, had drifted off to dream of their days together by the time the attendant came by to check for drinks.

**

Charlie rattled around in the house, not able at first to settle herself into a routine, picking up the few things out of place, rinsing the coffee mugs and returning to the bedroom to make the bed.

The scent of Urs was still on his pillow and she pressed her face into it, breathing in the familiar freshness, smoothing the pillow back in it’s proper place as she drew the covers up and wondered how she would ever get through the days now without being able to touch him or hear his voice.

Her computer beeped at her to indicate mail and she automatically opened it and glanced at the list of messages.

Strangely there was one from Colm and she clicked on it, curiosity getting the best of her even in this depressed mood.

‘Don’t think of the empty days, Little Charlie…think of the times you have spent together, the happiness that you have brought each other and the times to come. And remember…you have a new family now and we all love you too.

If you ever just need a hug, remember we are here for you.

Colm’

She cried a bit then smiled as she printed the message and filed it safely in her personal papers, gave the bed a last quick smooth of the duvet and went in the bath to have her shower.

**

Henri and his two students occupied her for the afternoon, helping to keep the loneliness at bay.

One was Janti, a tall, blonde girl of around 19, witty and intelligent, eager to pursue a career as a Botanist, because of this desiring a grounding in photography. The other, Cam, a slim boy of 18 who hadn’t decided on a career yet but was open to learning new skills, had been playing with photography for several years without any instruction. Both enjoyed the outdoors and were eager to accompany Charlie on her shoots to learn anything they could.

Cam and Janti were amazed to learn that Charlie intended to pay them and take them to the lab to learn about developing as well as the trips into the field. They were eager to begin, accepting her plan to go out the next morning, not even blanching or hesitating when she mentioned the time.

Henri left them all absorbed in details of their outings and puttered around the house, filling the wood bins with firewood from the sheltered stack outside, shoveling out the Jeep once more and clearing the snow off the verandas, front and back.

He stomped back in through the mud room and found them all laughing, their planning over, now indulging in hot chocolate as they got to know one another better.

“Henri, both Cam and Janti will need camo gear for tomorrow. I understand you know where Urs bought his….would you mind awfully helping them get some? I think I have enough Euros on me to cover it.”

He agreed willingly and settled himself on a stool at the counter to sip at the drink she provided.

“What’s the story on your friends? When do they arrive?”

“On the thirteenth, in the early afternoon. They join up in London and will arrive together. I’m so looking forward to seeing them. And Julie, when is she back?

“Not until the 18th, unfortunately. I can hardly wait. Believe me I know exactly what you and Urs are going through. And because I know, I think you should get dressed in something cozy and come in to town with me.
A bunch of us are getting together tonight for dinner, nothing fancy, just some music and dinner, a few laughs.”

It took less than a minute for her to agree and she left them talking to retreat to her room and put on something a little better than the track pants and sweat shirt she had worn all day. A night out with undemanding friends was exactly what she needed.

**

Urs dumped his cases off at the flat and went looking for the other Divos.

As he had expected he found them all in Seb’s flat, toasting the newly married couple, enjoying their last day of freedom before rehearsals started in the morning. Everyone was there except Sarah who had stayed in the States to finish out her time at her job before joining David for the tour.

He knocked and walked in, as always the casual, family atmosphere evident in the ease with which they all used each others space.

He went straight to Renee and wrapped the tiny woman up in his long arms, lifting her off her feet with a grin and kissing her thoroughly in congratulations.

David laughed at Seb’s not very amused look and Renee’s stunned expression when Urs put her back down and reached out to grab Seb in a bear hug.

“Who is this man and what has he done with our quiet, reserved Swiss?” David chortled.

Urs turned to him with a grin that he didn’t seem able to remove.

“I’m a new man, Yank….. I’ve found the woman who completes me and I want to tell the whole world.”

For just a second there was stunned silence. This was so not like Urs, the one person of their group who kept his own counsel, who found it hard to share his feelings except about music.

“I told you, didn’t I. That phone call when I spoke to Urs from Nice…he was very different…and I told you about the woman talking to me….” Seb stuttered he was so eager to remind everyone of his short but memorable conversation with Charlie.

Then the questions started, a barrage that got completely out of control until Gerry stood and whistled for silence.

“That’s better,” she said with a grin when they all looked at her. “Now, Urs, dear…start at the beginning and tell us everything…or I’ll have to hurt you.”

He laughed and flopped into one of the lounge chairs and began at the beginning while they all listened intently. He pulled his wallet out and offered them the photo Henri had taken of them together at Peter’s party, a full length shot of them embracing, looking at each other, Urs’ hands on her waist and hers on his chest, both smiling and obviously about to kiss. The glow of a lamp behind them made a halo effect that isolated them from the others in the room and made Geraldine and Renee sigh, the men just made ‘wow’ comments and passed the photo on.

He told them about the mix up with the house, about meeting Charlie, skimmed over the fight with Olivia but said that she broke up with him and that he felt an attraction for the little redhead and decided to stay, not with any real thoughts of seduction at first but that what they felt grew so rapidly it scared them both. He spoke of the accident with the trap and very briefly about his part in the rescue, then implied that they both couldn’t resist the attraction they felt and how their love grew daily, almost minute by minute. He talked briefly about their everyday routines and how they had gone to the party, gone skiing and on shoots, about her work and about how overwhelmed he was with the emotions she created in him…and he spoke of how hard it was to leave. His audience was attentive, silent, listening to this formerly reticent man baring his soul to them in a way they hadn’t heard him do in the 3 years they had known him.

“We want to be married in the spring, in that break between Canada and the UK at our favorite spot on the farm….and we really would like it if you guys could be there.”

Again there was stunned silence. Urs had always talked about the fact he felt marriage was unnecessary, just a rite to satisfy common morality. The changes in him were astounding.

He sat smiling, waiting patiently for the questions and comments he was sure were coming but they all surprised him.

Gerry flipped herself onto his lap and hugged him, crying softly but smiling.

“I have so wanted for you to feel like this, the way Carlos and I do. I’m so happy for you, Urs.”

She kissed him gently and Carlos came up behind her to retrieve his wife and grip Urs’ hand.

“Welcome to the club, Swiss. Now we have something else to toast.”

David hung back for a moment then when Urs rose, took him by the shoulders and stared at him before giving him a hug that almost lifted Urs off the floor.

“I give up….if the Swiss can change his mind and commit to marriage…I guess I better make an honest woman out of Sarah.”

They celebrated for a while longer, asking questions about Charlie, about Renee and Seb’s plans, drifting into talk about the upcoming tour and what to do about dinner.

They all agreed that it was a night to celebrate and decided on their favorite Chinese restaurant, separated and planned to meet up again at 7 to go for dinner.

Urs was still keyed up as he unpacked and finally left the last few bits to turn on his computer and check if Charlie was on line. She wasn’t so he sent her an e.mail, telling her about everyone’s reaction and that he missed her terribly, would check again later and could hardly wait to see her in Tokyo. Then he went to shower and dress for the evening out with his adopted family.

**

David wasted no time. While the mood was still on him he phoned Sarah, still at work far off in the States.

She was concerned at first…for him to call during the day was so unusual she thought something must be wrong.

“No, nothing’s wrong, Sweetie. In fact, maybe something is finally right. Sarah, you know I love you, more than anything in the world…How about us getting married?”

There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment.

“David you’ve always said you don’t believe in marriage…what’s going on?”

“I think I just had one of those epiphany things….. I really want to marry you, Baby, soon, none of the big fancy stuff, just you, me, our friends and a preacher….. will you?”

“Of course, you big goof….. I’ve been waiting for this forever.”

He sighed in relief.

“You had me going for a minute there….I thought you were going to say no… How about while we’re on the tour…we can find a really cool place in Asia and just do it.”

“Alright….David are you drunk?”

He chortled with laughter.

“Of course not…I’m singing tomorrow. Babe you can’t know how happy you’ve made me.”

They talked for a while longer, mushy stuff interspersed with details of meeting up before leaving on the tour and he knew she was crying with happiness, wondered why in H**l he hadn’t done this before.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:51 am

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Charlie enjoyed her evening out with Henri and his friends but didn’t stay late. She felt sure that Urs would try to IM her or at the least send her an e.mail and when she arrived home went immediately to the puter. Sure enough her message light was flashing.

She read his mail and smiled, understanding exactly how he felt, checked to see if he was online and was pleasantly surprised to see that he was. It was a minute or so before he answered but she didn’t worry, knowing how slowly he typed and finally her query asking if he was there was answered.

‘Swiss Bliss says: HI, Love…I miss you…did Henri talk you into going out for dinner? He told me he would try.

‘Charlie tuna says: You two…and you accuse me and the girls of plotting…Yes and we had a lovely time but I missed having you there so came home

‘Swiss Bliss says: LOL I went out with the gang too, for Chinese food…they are all very impressed that I managed to capture the heart of such a beautiful woman…and they say I’ve changed

‘Charlie tuna says: Not too much I hope…I love you just the way you are. Urs,this house is so empty…I’ll be glad to get back to work tomorrow…I can’t stand being here without you under foot.

‘Swiss bliss says: So you liked the students then…I’m glad…I really didn’t want you going out alone. When you go traveling again what will you do for company? An assistant might not be a bad idea, maybe another woman or a really ugly man…I don’t need the competition

‘Charlie Tuna says: Silly…there is no one who could compete with you….I was thinking about it earlier and might just look around for someone, maybe a grad student who wants a start. I can afford it and should really be passing on what I’ve learned over the past few years.

‘Swiss bliss says: Just had a thought…I don’t even know how old you are…it never came up ….and when is your birthday?

‘Charlie tuna says: were you thinking I’m too old for you…or too young? I’ll be 29 next May the 12th. almost over that 30 landmark…it’s all down hill from there they say

‘Swiss Bliss says: LOL I think there’s probably a few good years left in you yet. So you are in the field tomorrow and I’m off to rehearsals…at least it will make the time go faster. We have a couple of promos to do and then leave for KL on the 13th…isn’t that the date the girls arrive?

‘Charlie tuna says: Yes, this Saturday just after noon. We’re going to Peter’s for dinner Saturday night with Colm and Henri. I’ll let you know how things progress, though there won’t be a lot of chance for fireworks since there will be other guests….it’s one of his informal gatherings with a small group this time, some local politicos that he wants to check out and a few people from SAR for the training center that he wants to open.

‘Swiss Bliss says: I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight…my bed looks far too big for just me. I’ve become used to having you close enough to reach out to in the night, just to feel your warmth next to me. I do love you, mein Schtute…you make me feel whole, alive.

‘Charlie tuna says: Urs Toni Buhler don’t you dare get all mushy and make me cry!! But I will never get tired of hearing you say it…I love you too. I’ve waited all my life for you, not someone like you but you, who you are as a person, as the only man I could ever love so totally. The time will pass, my love and then we can be together. If this new assistant that I want works out I plan on farming out a great deal of the work to him/her and becoming your own personal stalker, following you on as many of your tours as possible or making a home for you to come back to when you get a chance to rest.

‘Swiss Bliss says: You always read my mind about what I would love to see happen…but don’t count on me resting when I first come home….we may be rather busy for the first day or two.

‘Charlie tuna says: We DO think alike!!! Go to bed, Love and dream of us together…I know you have rehearsal early tomorrow and I have the students coming at 5. I’m going to put your tee shirt on and snuggle into your pillow and dream of you. It’s only two weeks today until Tokyo…I love you.

XXXXX C’

‘Swiss Bliss says: I love you too, bossy woman LOL

XXXXX U’

**

Rehearsal had gone beautifully, the singers all rested and eager to get going. To the surprise of all, the squabbles over improvements were nearly non existent. Urs voice had never been better, his harmonies blending so perfectly that there were no changes necessary, his attitude affecting the others positively so that the energy of the group was much improved over the usual bickering that they had found themselves indulging in before when they would argue every little nuance to death. Seb was also more content and as a result more readily adapted to any comments the others made, the whole effort harmonious to such an extent that Steve called a break and wanted to know what had gone on during their holidays, he hadn’t had to referee one session of nerves all morning.

The four men shared a smile and began laughing at the concerned look, told Steve to get used to it, it was merely their New Years resolution put in practice. Gerry had come from the airport after seeing Renee off to Sydney and dissolved in a fit of laughter at the confused expression on Steve’s face, hugged him and told him that being truly in love cured most maladies, a homily that made him scowl and of course that made everyone laugh even harder.

They ignored the befuddled manager and blithely continued their rehearsal, joking and playing silly pranks, Carlos trying to sing a falsetto to one of the tracks and causing David to collapse on the floor in laughter that made even the jaded techies laugh until they cried.

It wasn’t until after a break and coffee that they were able to actually do some serious work again, breezing through the rest of the rehearsal without incident and leaving the hall early to go in search of dinner.

**

Urs took Seb under his wing for the evening, for the first time understanding exactly how the French man was suffering, separated from his love. They went for a long walk after dinner, chatting about their women, Seb teasing him a bit about the phone call and Urs blushing furiously but admitting that what he felt for Charlie was unlike anything he had ever experienced before.

“I know. When Renee leaves a room it’s like she has taken the air with her and I have trouble breathing until she returns. Does this go away as we become accustomed to each other? I hope not…it is the most exquisite pain/pleasure I’ve ever felt.”

Urs looked thoughtful for a moment then decided to share something with his French brother.

“I asked my father one time how a man would know if he was really in love and he said that if after 40 years of being married you got ha…. you know….if she just came into the room, you knew you had chosen wisely. I asked him if I had to be with a woman for 40 years before I was sure, I was after all only 16 at the time, and he said ‘Urs if she takes the air with her when she leaves the room, you will know’. That’s how Charlie makes me feel, has from the first day.”

Seb nodded his head and Urs was happy that he had shared with him. It felt great to have someone who understood.

They stopped in a neighbourhood pub and indulged in a pint of Guiness, played a game of darts and wandered slowly back to the flats, each intent now on trying to contact their women online, both feeling better since they had someone to share the burden with.

**
Charlie was full of chatter about the first trip with her students. Her bubbly enthusiasm transferred to Urs when they talked via IM and lifted his spirits further. Not only had the day been fun with the two novices, they had adapted well to the new work and seemed honestly interested.

Cam had spotted the tracks of a wolf in the snow and Charlie told them about the den, choosing not to disturb the animals but pointed out the smaller prints made by the bitch as she hunted with her mate.

“Game must be getting scarce if they’re hunting together now. That and the pups are getting bigger. Tell me what you think about the possibility of providing food for them.”

They talked quietly about it for a while, finally agreeing that it wouldn’t be good to interfere unless the situation became dire.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:52 am

Janti got some excellent footage of foliage that still had seed pods that were dormant in this season and Charlie moved some small rocks to show her the hibernating lichens that would spring back to life with the earliest warmth in very early spring.

Cam took shots of everything and she quietly filed away the fact that he had a very sharp eye, seemed to notice everything, an excellent quality for a photographer.

All in all it had been a very productive day and they were all eagerly looking forward to the next one as they piled into Cam’s beat up old truck for the trip back to Lucerne.

Urs told her of the new harmonies they had decided on, laughed as he told her that David had proposed to Sarah and told her how happy Seb and Renee were except for being briefly separated. He mentioned that he had decided not to shave until Steve turned purple, which would probably be the first time the manager spotted his beard and mustache when they arrived in KL.

And as it had the past night their conversation drifted into talk of missing each other and how they wished that the time until Tokyo would speed past.

For half an hour they talked of their last night in the farm house, the scenes that they painted of loving each other evoking memories that their bodies remembered all too well and they ended the messages ready for a night of romantic dreams.

**

At last it was the day for the girls to arrive and Charlie was so excited she was at the airport an hour before the plane was to touch down, putting in time drinking coffee and reading the arrivals board impatiently. Half an hour after touchdown she was at the doors watching for the two women, spotted Scarlett’s taller blonde head first and ducked under the barrier to throw herself into the crowd and grasp both women firmly, crying and laughing in joy at seeing them after so long.

Security began haranguing her in Swiss German but she laughed and took the girls through the crowd and out into the reception area, all of them laughing and chattering away, completely ignoring the guard who gave up in disgust and went back to his position by the doors.

They pushed the luggage carts outside, three confident, smiling women dressed in comfortable jeans or pant suits and pea jackets, their laughter and looks turning more than a few heads.

Charlie waved for the limo, having decided against the Jeep since it was hard getting the Freedom top on single handed and was a cold ride. Peter graciously offered the hire service he used and had her picked up, the driver waiting while she paced and finally came back out with her friends.

Scarlett raised an eyebrow at her, thinking it was an extravagance that hadn’t been needed but Charlie explained.

“It’s not mine, silly. Urs’ Uncle Peter insisted. We’re having dinner at his house tonight, a small gathering of maybe 20 or so. He loves to give parties. That’s where we went New years Day.” She smiled inwardly, knowing that even though she wasn’t concerned about riches Scarlett would subconsciously be impressed.

Millie snuggled into the cushy seat and smiled broadly as Charlie surveyed the friends she thought of more as sisters than mere acquaintances.

“You’ve both lost weight!!! What have you been up to?”

“You noticed….what a good friend you are to notice, Even my son didn’t notice,” Millie said with a laugh.

“We’ve both been doing exercises and using that GI diet plan. It’s a health thing. I’m actually jogging a bit now in the mornings and Millie is sleeping back in her room instead of on the sofa…stairs don’t bother her anymore.”

Scarlett smoothed her blonde hair back and looked pleased, her chocolate brown eyes sparkling as she looked out the window at the passing city. She was taller than Charlie, around 5 foot 7, a blonde who looked to have Norwegian ancestors somewhere in her lineage, with the excess weight gone her figure was what would be called Rubenesque after the painter who loved to paint full figured nudes, preferring the look of real women to the waif like models of some of his peers. She spoke with a slight southern drawl, more so when she was excited or nervous, her twinkling eyes giving away a rapier sharp wit that many people didn’t get…unless they were equally intelligent.


Millie was a sharp contrast, green eyes with dark hair, possibly even shorter than Charlie but with a wide infectious grin and smile dimples that reminded Charlie of David’s laugh. Her weight loss was most noticeable around her angelic face, the peaches and cream English complexion startling in an oval face that required little makeup, a buxom woman, who, like Scarlett, also carried herself with a confidence that encouraged conversation.

“And you…you look marvelous…. But are you sleeping…your eyes are a bit shadowed?” Millie said with a frown.

“I don’t even know what I am…I miss him so much….I’m not sleeping well, and I guess it’s because I reach for him in the night and then remember. It will take a bit of getting used to I guess.”

They turned in at the drive way and started slowly toward the house.

“Oh, look at this…this is your place? How adorable …I can see why you love it here, girl,” Scarlett craned her head to see more and Millie looked out the other window, both admiring the view though Charlie knew they would be bored to tears living way out here with few amenities. Still they knew how much she would love this location, were happy for her and content to spend time here with the younger woman they regarded as a sister.

“It’s only 10 minutes from town and really quite beautiful. I’m going to have a generator installed in case of storms but for me it’s perfect.”

They went in the house while the driver handled the luggage and as soon as he was gone kicked off boots and curled up on the couch and chairs to talk, the conversation centering on the whirlwind romance.

Charlie told them…almost…everything and they asked questions, crying over the tenderness and the loving touches that they had always believed Urs was capable of and now were proven accurate.

“He’s emailed me a few times…is actually on my IM list now…Charlie he sounds so happy, so in love. You know we both adore Urs and we’ve always thought you would be perfect for him.”

She laughed.

“For a brief moment at first I thought you might have engineered the mix up over the house…It would be so like the pair of you.”

“Damn…didn’t think of it or we would have. Well the main thing is it worked out. So tell us…how is he?”

Charlie looked at Scarlett blankly for a moment then realized what she was asking.

“Scarlett…you don’t expect me answer that do you?”

Scarlett smiled while Millie tried to hide her face and chuckled.

“Well not specifics but on a scale of 1 to 10….like, does he make your toes curl?”

Charlie tried hard to be indignant but the question had made her mind wander and she got a faraway look on her face.

“One to ten….he’s a 15 ….and he makes everything curl, not just my toes.” She shook herself mentally and then held her hand up to her friends as they grinned.

“Now don’t ask anything else…naughty ‘cause I won’t answer. I have some pictures to show you though and Urs said I could share them if you want copies.”

They went through the photos and selected a few to have prints made, talked about Charlie’s work and both of the women’s grown children, then went to the bedroom to unpack and shake the wrinkles out of their party clothing. At last the house was filled with the laughter that had been missing since Urs left.

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PostSubject: Re: The Shared Vacation   Thu May 28, 2009 10:53 am

CHAPTER NINETEEN


Peter’s first sight of Scarlett was as she stepped from the limo he had sent out to the farmhouse, a graceful woman who unfolded herself elegantly from the back seat and took in her surroundings with ease. She was dressed simply, a beautifully tailored black silk and satin pantsuit with a black faux fur lined cape over top, the hood drawn up over her shoulder length blonde page boy, those chocolate eyes taking in everything at a glance and twinkling with delight, especially when she recognized this tall elegant man as her date, his apparent appreciation for what he could see of her heightening the little lurch she felt…Charlie hadn’t done him justice, she thought and her smile deepened.

Charlie and Millie stepped from the limo but they were merely accompanying the woman he had riveted his attention on, remembering his manners when Charlie smiled and he turned to look at the others.

“Peter…how nice of you to come out to meet us. This is my friend Scarlett and this little one still partly stuck in the limo is Millie….Scarlett….move out of the way, Love. Peter won’t bite.”

Scarlett had been doing an excellent imitation of a statue, losing her composure for a few moments when Peter took her hands and lost himself in the depths of her eyes.

They both laughed somewhat nervously and turned to help Millie out of the vehicle, Peter apologizing profusely while Scarlett teased.

“Come along then, Millie. Dr. Osler is going to think you’re the shy and retiring type if you hang about in the limo.”

Millie had brought along a raspberry silk pant suit for evening wear, an excellent color for her skin tone and dark hair, like Scarlett she wore very minimal makeup, didn’t need it and had wrapped herself up in a dark woolen coat against the chill of the January weather. With Charlie dressed in her dove grey the three women looked ready for anything.

They quickly shed coats in the foyer and wandered with Peter into the large salon to meet some of the other guests.

Within minutes they had separated, Peter taking Scarlett around with him to introduce as his date and hostess for the evening, Millie and Charlie circulating, meeting some of the people that Charlie remembered from the party, joined by Henri and steered away from the more boring guests, reaching Colm who was deep in a conversation with a beautiful young woman from Oslo who was in Lucerne, seconded to one of the architectural firms.

“Charlie….have your friends arrived?”

She laughed and pulled Millie forward.

“Colm, this is Millie…well Amelia really but we call her Millie. Colm is Urs’ cousin, the architect, remember I was telling you about him. He drives a big purple snowmobile at about 200 miles per hour, faster if you really scream loud.”

Millie laughed and held her hand out to him, shaking his firmly and looking up into his amber, Buhler eyes. He was stunning, his thick hair shot with silver his body the rangy Buhler build, tall, well built, hard muscles that nearly screamed for a woman to touch, to lean against.

He stared at her for a moment, this woman who would fit under his chin so easily, her lush figure, confident air and green eyes…..

“You have green eyes,” he said and cursed himself silently. Very witty, fool, he thought, wondering where his brain had escaped to, but he smiled and it didn’t matter anymore what he had said or if he had spoken at all.

Millie had the grace to smile lightly, rather than laugh at him.

“How very observant of you. I’m sure you do excellent work on the details of your buildings. I would love to see some of your work, Mr. Buhler.”

He shook his head and took her hand again, laughing and pulling her into the alcove beyond the lounge.

“Perhaps we should start over. My name is Colm and I’m very pleased to meet you.”

They wandered off hand in hand, totally ignoring everyone else and Charlie breathed a sigh of contentment.

“Why do I get the feeling that some devilish plan just came to fruition?” Henri said as he watched Charlie grin.

She just kissed his cheek and laughed, moving off to mingle until dinner.

**

Charlie took advantage of a lull in the conversation to glance about the room, gloating a bit over a plan well conceived and even better implemented.

There had been instant sparks between the two women and their Swiss dates for the evening….. Sparks that had intensified throughout the evening, through a sit down dinner and conversation afterward in the lounge.

As host Peter had been honor bound to mingle but Charlie smiled as she watched him encourage Scarlett to be his hostess, going about the room with him meeting people then separating while he mingled and came back to her side often.

Colm and Millie had disappeared right after dinner, not found for quite some time, nestled on one of the sofas in the library, talking as if they had known each other for years, both surprised when a remark was made about the length of time they had been missing.

Scarlett had been talking with one of the members of the local Democratic party, a lawyer who had decided that he might dabble in politics when Peter noticed the slight crispness to her voice and came over to rescue her.

“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of dancing with you yet, Scarlett, my dear. Excuse us please, Herr Friedrichs.”

He smoothly steered her onto the small dance floor and held her against his firm body, pleased that she fit so well against him, her body soft and full, molding nicely against him in all the right spots.

“Thank you for the rescue. He was beginning to try my patience,” she murmured with a smile and a slight southern burr.

“My pleasure….I’ve been eager to get my arms around you all night, Miss Scarlett. You will forgive me, I hope, if I am a bit forward but I understand you are only here for a week. I would like to see you again, tomorrow and every day until you must return to your other life.”

He pulled her tighter to his chest and leaned his face against her cheek, breathing softly in her ear and humming along with the tune the small group was playing.

Slowly, carefully, his mouth crept across her cheek and teased the corner of her lips. He smiled as their eyes met and he kissed her softly, his tongue flicking gently across her lips just once before he leaned back, moving his hand to her bottom to pull her closer, letting her feel the evidence of what he felt when he held her close.

It was with a great deal of reluctance that the 3 women left the opulence of Peter’s house for the cozy farmhouse to chat about the evening, both Scarlett and Millie bemused over the intriguing men they had met and the reactions, both with dates to meet the next day. Both had spent a few moments alone with their Swiss ‘friends’, just before leaving in the limo, both returning with swollen mouths and glazed eyes….. and smiles that told Charlie that Peter and Colm would soon be in cold showers.…Charlie thought she would likely see little of her friends over the next week if the plans they spoke of were any indication …but she didn’t mind…not a bit.

**
The arrival of Il Divo in Kuala Lumpur was in stages, Carlos and Sebastien arriving one night, the next day Urs and David. They all looked rested and ready to go back to work, except for the neatly groomed beard which Urs wore, very briefly. By the time of the first press conference it was gone much to the dismay of many fans on the Forum who thought it made him look sexy and dangerous.

All the stops had been pulled out to make them welcome, suites, flowers, interviews, press, private clubs for relaxation where it was dutifully reported that even the formerly reserved SRG really rocked out, dancing with abandon.

Kuala Lumpur was of course one of the jewels of the Orient, a mix of modern and ancient that had flowed together in an amalgam that pandered to every taste: the stunning architectural marvel of the Petronas Towers that had been featured in a Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta Jones movie; Petaling Street Night Market where it was possible to see or purchase everything from gems to electronics and clothing in a colorful display that nightly was offered under the blazing lights and awnings of the traditional street market. And of course the food, within walking distance of the Hotel were restaurants which tempted the appetite as well as the eyes. If there was time during the day there were far too many things for the visitor to see everything…especially if they had a manager who tightly scheduled most of the minutes of their days.

Still the Divos were happy….they were back performing, rested, ready to do what they had been born to do… perform their music, live.

**

Charlie had been right about not seeing much of Scarlett and Millie. In fact after the 3rd day of trips to the ski hills, dinners in Lucerne, touring around on snowmobiles, and not making it home…. ‘far to late, decided to stay over so I wouldn’t wake you’…she saw them rather infrequently for the last few days of the ‘visit’.

She was busy as well, taking her aides out again and then spending a couple of days in the lab, then interviewing a couple of grad students for the permanent position of traveling with her.

She finally settled on Russell, a huge young man of 25, white blonde, originally from Norway but with four languages and having spent the last 2 years in Lucerne at the Academy, doing post graduate work in Photography. She was very impressed with his work when he timidly showed her his portfolio….he had a great eye and his sense of structure and composition was fresh and new. He was a health nut, strong as an ox but gentle of nature, very committed to his life partner, Angus.

She decided to take them both on. Angus, who had no real desire for a career, as a gopher and Russell as Aide, news that made Urs extremely happy, especially when he learned of the relationship between the two men and that Russell could likely bench press both him and Charlie… with one hand.

**

The visit of Millie and Scarlett drew to a close but they admitted that it wasn’t really over. Both women wore a perpetual look of awe on their faces and when discreetly questioned by Charlie would only say that ‘15’s and toe curling’ must run in the Buhler blood line.

Plans had been made for them to each return to their homes, but both Peter and Colm would be flying out to meet the grown children within days….Charlie was nearly crowing over how well the matchmaking had gone and relayed the progress to Urs who thought maybe it would be a new career for them if the music business slumped.

Like that was going to happen. The concerts were stunning, the crowds enraptured, the venues magnificent and the guys performing like never before, feeding off the energy given by the fans and outdoing themselves again and again.

Charlie kissed her Sisters and sent them home, returning to the farm house to close up shop, ready to take Russell and Angus to Mongolia where she would get them established, then leave them to go on to meet Urs in Tokyo, after what seemed like forever, eager to be back in his arms.

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Eternita Il Divo Fan Fics Library & Assorted Info :: IL DIVO FAN FICS :: Lothiriel72 (Ree)-
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