"Iím not the same man you wished for."
"Does it scare you, Mara?"
"It scared me when I realized who you were but I'm not afraid now. Were you afraid?"
"Not for a moment. When I realized exactly who I was, I was rather perplexed but on the other hand I was pleased with the possibilities. I didn't see the need to question my existence just as a lot of people utilize their faith. They don't ask how they got here they're just thankful they did. As I saw it, it was a chance for me to use the inborn gifts I have yet to recoup some of the time I may have wasted in my other life."
"I reckon I understand what you mean, Max. Do you ever think about you're uncleís estate?"
"With fondness. I don't see how it could exist though. Not in the way it did."
She laced her fingers though his and rose to her feet slowly. "You need to come with me, Max. I have something to show you."
"Now I'm curious."
"I know, it's dark but you'll get the idea. Things will be different in the morning."
"Mara, love, does that mean what I think it means?"
She looked into his eyes and what she saw grabbed her the same way it did when she first read about him. Every woman has her little special weakness when it comes to men and what she saw in him was not arrogance, it was confidence. Her weakness
She nodded. "I want you to stay."
"I knew you couldn't resist me."
"Max, there are some things you need to know ...about these spells I have."
"How...how did you know that?"
"I put two and two together. Is this what you think makes you...broken?"
Once again she nodded but he did the opposite. He shook his head no. "It doesn't mean you're broken, damaged or worthless. It doesn't mean anything more than you need to take care of yourself."
"But I can't work like I used to. I can't do the job I love. I used to watch this show on the telly called Police Rescue. I knew it was what I wanted to do. My father wanted me to go to med school but I wanted to work in the field. So...itís what I did. I was working down in Sydney for a while and this job came up in America. It started out to be an exchange program but I managed to stay on. Reckon they were as short handed as the emergency services around here."
"You have a need."
"What do you mean by that?"
"You need to feel useful. You need to fell like you're helping someone. Maybe you should consider being a little more self centered."
"What makes you such an expert?" She challenged him with another direct look.
"My name is Max Skinner. I'm never wrong."
"Bollocks!" she replied with a chuckle. "You're wrong and I'm a loser."
"Fuck sake, Mara. You know what Uncle Henry would say to that? He would say that a man should celebrate his losses as deeply and as often as he celebrates his victories."
"How do I celebrate being ill? What is there about losing my job that gives me a reason to celebrate?"
"You're full of imagination, of wit. Perhaps this is fates have something else for you to do. Aside from that, love. You said you had something to show me. Get on with it. I'm half past knackered.'
At least he made her laugh a little. "Alright, letís go then." she nudged her head toward the door.
Leaving his rental at the farmhouse, they took her truck and headed toward town. She pointed out Russ's vehicle parked just outside the pub as they passed through.
"He's had a bit of an influence on you eh, love?"
"You could say that. From what I hear there are a few of us around who've felt the effects of his passion. I don't mean in the biblical sense mind you. Of course I'm sure there are more of those types in his past."
"And you, Max? Aren't you a lucky bastard?"
"Luck has nothing to do with it. I'm a skillful son of a bitch. I not only hoodwinked the entire London bond market, I've managed to pull one over on the New York exchange. Have I told you I'm bloody rich by the way?"
She glanced at him just before she turned the truck onto a narrow paved road. Max struggled to see the sign at the gate but he missed it.
"If you're wondering what it said, it said Le Griffon."
"You're kidding?" he snapped back. "But this is Australia. Le Griffon is in the south of France."
"Was there some sort of copy write on the name?"
He turned to look out the window and he noticed that they'd just crossed over a body of water.
"Itís the Bellinger River, Max. I grew up here. I mean I spent a good deal of my childhood here."
"Does your family own the land?"
"No. I do."
As they crested a slight knoll the moonlight reflected off the even rows that brought a uneasy sense of familiarity to Max. "This is a vineyard. You're a vintner?"
"Well I'm no longer a fucking paramedic, mate. Yeah, Le Griffon is the most easterly vineyard in New South Wales. Hunter valley is where most of the product comes from but we've got a good little business going here. Shiraz, Pinot Noir Chardonnay, Riesling, to name a few of our products. The house, bastide..." she glanced quickly at him before returning her eyes to the road. "...is just over the backside of this rise."
It appeared, dimly lit but every bit as large as Uncle Henry's bastide, farm house. Mara pulled the truck to a stop in front and she undid her seatbelt. "You see, Max? You see why I read the book, your book?"
"Bloody fucking hell." He moved slowly toward the doors. "How did this happen?"
"A bit bizarre isn't it? We've got parallel childhoods in a way. Come in. I'll tell you all about it."
"Mara, is there a tennis court here?"
"A bassin? Swimming pool?"
"Is it ....oh bollocks! Never mind. Just tell me there are no scorpions here!"
"Yes, there are. Brown scorpions along with several varieties of poisonous spiders and snakes."
"How do snakes feel about lavender?"
"I've no idea. Why do you ask that, Max?"
"No worries, love."
"Max. Could we just...go to bed? You'll see this place in a different light in the morning. I promise."
"I thought you'd never ask."
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