As I pulled into the parking lot of the real estate agency, my eyes were drawn instinctively to the tall, dark haired man coming out the door.
"Alyssa!" He waved when he saw me and cast me that David Archuletta smile that made me weak in the knees.
"Nate." I smiled back at the handsome agent, hoping my lips didn’t shake as much as my legs. "What have you got for me?"
"A real looker this time." He jerked his head to the side. "Ride with me? Makes no sense to drive two cars."
I drew in a breath. I’d dreamed of such a scenario many times over the past couple of weeks, but logic always brought me back to reality. A guy as handsome as Nate Farmer would never go for a girl like me.
"Hey, come on." Nate gave an awkward chuckle. "We’ve spent enough time together that you must realize I’m no ax murderer."
I laughed, grateful he’d misunderstood. "No, you’re right. Makes no sense to use double the gasoline."
"Good." He led me to a black Mustang convertible and opened the passenger’s door.
"Nice ride," I said as Nate closed my door and jogged around to the driver’s side. "A lot nicer than the beat-up old SUV you’ve been driving around."
"I only bring out my Black Pearl on special occasions." Nate slid behind the wheel and started the car.
My stomach in knots, I plastered on a smile to hide my discomfort. "Hot date tonight?"
"Don’t know, yet." The hint of a grin lifted the corners of his mouth. "I think you’ll like this next house."
"I certainly hope so." My voice came out in a hoarse whisper.
Nate cast me a sympathetic glance. "We’ve seen some groaners, haven’t we? But I know you’ll like this one."
We rode in awkward silence until Nate pulled onto a little country road. Tall conifers lined each side, and the smell of pine sap blew over me. I sniffed in the fresh scent and relaxed against the leather seats.
"Refreshing, isn’t it?" Nate smiled. "I love nature. That’s one reason I fell in love with this house."
"It’s lovely here."
"Not too many neighbors, though."
"I don’t mind. I like the solitude."
He nodded as if he already realized that. He turned onto a narrow dirt road that wound up a small hill. A two-story log cabin soon came into view.
"Nate!" On impulse, I grabbed his arm. "It’s gorgeous."
With a chuckle, he gently pulled on my fingers. "That’s a powerful grip you’ve got."
"I’m sorry." My face burned and I wanted to disappear. "Did I hurt you?"
He laughed outright. "Of course not. Let’s go inside?"
"Is this in my price range?" I asked as he fumbled with the key in the front door.
"Actually– " He sucked in a breath. "It’s at the top." The lock clicked, and Nate pushed the door open. "After you."
He barely moved, leaving me just enough space to squeeze by him. My back brushed his chest, and the scent of his cologne wafted to me. This had to be the last house I saw with this man, or I might go crazy.
"You have to see this view." He led me into the dining room, through a set of French doors that opened onto a balcony. I gasped as I took in a view of forest and stream.
"It’s beautiful." I turned to find him close behind me.
"Very." He looked straight at me.
My heart throbbed. I swallowed a nervous laugh and looked back at the view.
"I knew this would be the perfect place for you." He spoke softly, a note of sadness in his voice.
I couldn’t look at him. "Y-you know me well, and we’ve only spent–"
"Two weeks. On Monday."
"Two weeks?" I raked in a breath...of air that smelled of him.
"Alyssa, I want to give you something." He took my hand, causing an electric-like jolt to course through me. I could barely breathe as he led me into the kitchen. A cylinder package wrapped in yellow paper stood on a black granite counter. He let go of my hand and pointed.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Open it." Nate grinned, a nervous wobble to his lips.
I tore off the paper to reveal–
"Table salt?" I blinked, hoping to hide my confusion.
Nate took the container from my hands and placed it on the counter.
"Unconventional, I know." He wrapped his hands around mine. "There’s this old Brazilian saying about only knowing someone well after eating a pound of salt together."
"I don’t understand."
"Do you know how many times you’d have to have dinner with someone to use that much salt?"
"A long time."
He nodded, inching toward me. "Would you eat a pound of salt with me? Starting with dinner tonight?"
I might have pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, but I didn’t want to look foolish in front of him.
"I would love to have dinner with you. But I must warn you. I’m a low sodium kind of girl. It might take a long time to use a pound."
"The longer the better." He took my face in his hands and softly kissed my lips. My head spun as I allowed him to pull me into his arms and kiss me more fully.
"Does this mean I don’t have to give up my house?" he whispered, then kissed the tip of my nose.
"This is my house. I bought it a few months ago, began fixing it up to rent out to vacationers. But I liked being out here so much I planned on moving in myself. Until–" He smiled and looped a lock of my hair behind my ear. "Until I saw your disappointment after each house I took you to see."
I looked deep into his eyes. "You were going to sell me your house and...walk away?"
"I hoped not to. Still do. In fact, if you still like me after a pound of salt, I thought we might make this a permanent thing."
"You mean...live together?" Disappointment shot through me.
He shook his head. "I mean, marriage. I’m not asking yet. Don’t want to scare you off. We’ve only know each other for the best two weeks of my life. But after–"
"Yes!" I thrust myself into his arms. "I’ll take it."
"The house, the salt...you."
With a smile he hugged me to him. "Let’s go start on our first pound of salt."
About the Author: Lianne Bruynell Lopes is a wife and mother of two who currently teaches sixth grade at a small Christian school in southern Florida. An avid history buff, Lianne writes blending her love for the past with an appreciation of good, clean romance. Her first award-winning novel, Shadow of the Wolf, was published in 2002. Lianne is currently pursuing publication for a second novel.