The Resurrection of Charlie

Poor, forgotten Charlie.  I’m not sure why he completely escaped my recall when I rewrote Through the Dark from memory.  It probably has to do with my one-time fascination with the bad boy, wounded male image.  At that time, Charlie didn’t fit my subconscious mold for what sexy was. I perceive it as a sign of my growing up that I now find scenes like the one below at least as enticing as the scene where Sarah first meets Luke.

Charle meets Sarah

Charlie downshifted his Harley and cruised by when he saw the open gate.  Peering up the lane for some sign of life, he drove past the place once, then turned around and came back. When he pulled up to the entrance, he stopped and sat for a while, chewing his thumb and thinking.

The gate had always been closed before. Luke’s main reason for choosing this place was because it had been empty for years. That, and the fact that Mathias Payne’s private property bordered the back of the timber.

Was that who was up there?  Mathias Payne? That didn’t sound too good for Luke. Maybe he’d better go see just what was going on.

He laid his bike  down in the ditch by the road for anonymity and walked up the lane.  Approaching quietly he could arrive unannounced and back out without being noticed if necessary.

He saw the car first, parked by the house. Not Mathias Payne’s vehicle, which was a relief. Then he heard a grating sound coming from the back yard. Just as he recognized it, an Irish Setter who had been sitting on the porch jumped up and began barking in alarm.

Charlie froze. When a woman walked around the side of the house to see what was going, he felt relieved for a moment until he noticed the gun belt strapped her hip. “Hello,” he called from a safe distance. “Boy, I can tell you don’t like strangers around here.”

She put her hands on her hips, which made the gun and holster even more visible. “What do you want?” The dog continued to bark, interspersed with low growls.

“Well, a friendly smile would be nice, but I’d settle for a cease fire.  I’m not sure what to worry about more, that vicious animal or the gun your fingers are itching to pull on me.”

“Quiet, Paddy.” The dog obeyed instantly and dropped to her haunches, but remained watchful.  The woman, however, did not back down. Every muscle was still tense and on the alert.

“Hey, relax, will you?” Charlie laughed nervously and put his hands up to show he was harmless. “I promise not to bite if you don’t. How about a peace treaty? After all, I look like a nice guy, don’t I? Blond hair, blue eyes, a mild, unassuming manner.  Just an all American guy.” He put his hands down and walked slowly forward. “Got a good solid name, too. Charlie Brice.”

“That’s far enough,” she said after he’d taken a few steps. “I’m Sarah. And you still didn’t tell me what you’re doing here.”

“Actually, I should be the one asking that question.  I happen to know that Mathias Payne owns this property and that means you’re trespassing at least as much as I am.”

“Wrong,” she said bluntly. “Uncle Mathias never owned this property, as much as he would like to. It was my mother’s place and now it’s mine. And I intend to keep it.”

“Uncle?”

“My mother was Mathias’s sister,” she snapped as if he had called her a liar.

Charlie shrugged. “Far be it from me to argue with a porcupine.”

“Porcupine?”

“What else would you call it? You’re so bristled up you’re liable to shoot quills at me any minute.”

The corner of Sarah’s mouth twitched like maybe she wanted to smile. “Porcupines don’t shoot their quills.”

“They don’t shoot guns either. Any way you look at it, you are one dangerous looking lady right now.”

He saw the tightness of her shoulders release a little.  She lowered her hands, although she didn’t look any less prepared to shoot him if he gave her reason.

“You know how it is,” she said. “Stranger danger.  It’s drilled into kids from early on. I had a scare here last night and don’t plan on getting caught off guard again.”

“A scare?”

“Someone was snooping around my car last night.  At least…” She frowned. “I think there was. At any rate, it seems like a wise move to know more than just your name and hair color.” She cocked her head, obviously waiting for an answer.

“Well, if my good looks and charm aren’t doing the trick…” He grinned, but she didn’t smile back. “Then I guess you should know I’m just here brown nosing it, is all.  I’ve been looking for some part-time farm labor and Payne is the largest land owner around here.  When I noticed someone was on his property— What I thought is his property,” he added hastily when she seemed about to protest. “I thought maybe I’d earn some points if I did the responsible thing and made sure no one was trashing the place or otherwise engaged in illegal activities.”

“So, just being responsible?” She narrowed her eyes at him and Charlie nodded.  “Why do I get the feeling that’s a new thing for you?” She sighed. “You do seem relatively harmless, but if you’re hoping for a job reference from me, you’re out of luck.  My uncle and I don’t exactly get along and he doesn’t even—”

Charlie waited for her to go on, and when she didn’t, said, “I accept your apology. On one condition. That you offer me something to drink.  I’m dying of thirst.”

There, she definitely smiled, just for a moment.  “I don’t remember apologizing.”

“You just said I’m harmless. Shows you’ve got good instincts. Now, if you happen to have some water. Or coffee. I’d kill for a cup of coffee. Not, you know,” He held up his hands again. “Not literately, of course.”

“I only have instant.”

“Hey, I’m not picky.  Instant is fine.”

She hesitated and Charlie thought he’d lost her.  Then she sighed and pointed to a rusted metal chair on the porch. “Wait here.”

Compare that to Sarah’s first encounter with Luke.  At this point in the story, she has come to realize there is someone living in her barn, but she has done nothing about it.  In the original draft, in fact, she feels drawn despite herself to this stranger she has glimpsed only from a distance, a homeless trespasser who lives in her barn and has tried to make friends with her dog by giving Paddy a rabbit carcass he poached illegally on her property. Earlier in the day before the scene below, Sarah’s foot had been caught in an animal trap someone had put in her timber, and Luke had been shot for snooping around Sarah’s uncle’s house.  When Sarah enters the barn, he is up in the loft tending to the wound.

Luke meets Sarah

He didn’t hear the noises until someone began ascending the loft ladder. Wincing at the pain, he pulled himself up and moved out of the light. Scarcely breathing, he waited while the dark shadow came closer, waving a flashlight beam back and forth to search for him. When it came within striking distance, he leaped. The intruder came down with a muffled cry.

There was a struggle, but Luke was the stronger despite his injury and he pinned his victim beneath him. It was then that he realized he had tackled a woman.  A rain-soaked woman, her breasts flattened to his chest, perked nipples against his bare skin.

“Sarah?”

“Get off me.”

She tried to release herself, but Luke held her down. Defeated, she stared into his eyes defiantly. Instinctively, he crushed his lips to hers. Hungrily he tasted her mouth, forgetting his wound as he pressed closer to her. Her shock gave way to a moment of surrender, her body warm and melting to his touch, her mouth responding to his.

Then the fight was back. She hit at him; her hand pushing against the bullet wound sent an explosion of pain through him. He fell away, curled into a ball, and bit down hard on his lip to keep from crying out. Blood seeped into his mouth as he waited for her to run off.

Except she didn’t. Groping through the hay, she felt for the flashlight that had fallen during their struggle. “Damn you,” she raved. “You ruin my watchdog, shoot rabbits on my land, and even set traps to hurt me and now you think you’ll try rape?  I’ve had it with you.  I’ve had it.”

The beam of light caught him full in the face and he put up a bloody hand to shade his eyes.

“You’re hurt.” The tone she used now was quite different from before. Flashlight still trained on him, she moved closer and Luke could see that she had pulled out her gun, but the point was lowered. She knelt beside him, still wary.

Quite a contrast between the two men, right?  The friendly jokester and the dangerous bad boy.  Their personalities will remain the same in this new version of the story.  What will change, however, is Sarah’s reaction to them.  We shall see, shall we, if this time she will see sense or end up trusting the one most likely to be a bad guy.

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