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Authors: Ann B Harrison

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BOOK: Coming Home
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Essie slapped her palm
on the island counter between them, her rare snappy attitude rearing its head.
"If he hurts her, Russ, so help me, I'll give him what I should have done
when he was younger."

Chapter Five

 

 

"Rooney, it's good
to see you again," Tory kissed her cheek before he led her into his office
and guided her to a chair. He sat on the edge of his desk in front of her.
"I'm sorry, honey, I know you were hoping to sort things out before he
died."

"Yeah well, I
shouldn't have left it so long." She gave a shaky laugh. "So, want to
tell me what we do now?"

"Sure. Can I get
you a coffee before we start?" He watched as her striking blue eyes
filled. She wiped a trembling hand over the already tidy hair, not a blonde
strand out of place. The tears spilled over her dark lashes and trickled
silently down her cheeks. Tory wanted nothing more than to wrap her in his arms
and take away the pain. Sadly, she probably wouldn't accept his help, not that
he would stop offering. He had adored her from the time she had made it her
mission in life to tag around after her brothers and him.

"Got a spare
tissue?"

He reached behind him,
grabbed the box and placed it in her hands. "Let me order coffee and we
can talk about the will. See where you want to go with it, okay?"

Rooney nodded her head
and blew her nose while Tory reached for the phone.

By the time their
coffee was brought in, Rooney had composed herself. "Sorry about
that."

"We grew up
together, Rooney. I’m the person you’ve turned to in the last eight years. If
you can't cry in front of me, where can you cry? Heck, I remember you crying
when your poddy calves were sold off and you weren't embarrassed for me to see
your tears then." He smiled, trying to lighten the mood. "It's no
different now we're adults. A few tears won't make me like you any less."

"I know but still,
sometimes I think I take you for granted. I'm sorry if I do but you make it
easy for me. I don't mean to." She smiled and reached for her coffee,
blowing across the top of the hot liquid before taking a sip. "Oh, I
needed that."

"You don't take
advantage and besides, what are friends for?"

"Thanks, Tory. I
mean it. You’re probably my best friend and the only one I can talk to about
family problems. I don't know what I would have done without you."

I never want to find
out either.
Tory cleared his throat before speaking.
"Right, now the will. I don't know if you’re ready to read this, but here
it is." He handed her the document and sat back sipping his coffee while
she read the will.

Rooney tapped a finger
nail on her lip as she read. A frown appeared on her forehead as she scanned
the page and she tilted her head as though thinking about what was written.
Tory watched her turn to the next page and continued reading. She chewed on her
lip, small sniffling sounds coming from her mouth moments before tears trickled
down her cheeks.

When she finished, she
looked up. The faraway glaze in her eyes startled Tory. Concern raced through
his blood and his heart skipped a beat. What was wrong? "Rooney, are you
okay?"

She blinked and looked at
him as though coming out of a dream, lifting the tissue to wipe away the tears.
"Sorry, I was just thinking. I wonder why he did it that way? Wanted us
all back home, I mean?" A frown appeared between her eyes and she pursed
her lips. "Do you think he was trying to apologise for making us all
leave?"

"Maybe. He didn't
say too much when we drafted up the will. I didn't think it was my place to
ask, quite frankly." He shuffled the papers and braced himself. "Are
you going to move back and live at Petersham Homestead again?"

She raised an eyebrow
and tilted her head to one side as her gaze passed over the top of his head. He
recognized her thinking look and waited for her process his question.

"I don't know.
It's something I'll have to think about. There could be repercussions with
Tamara."

"I still say you
need to talk to Stevie. He has a right to know about his daughter." Tory
swallowed the lump that rose in his throat every time he discussed her past
lover with her.

"You know what I
think about
that
idea. He didn't give two thoughts about me when Father
caught us in the barn. The weak bastard ran to save his arse and left me to
take the belting of my life." Her eyes flashed with anger, dark and stormy
as she spoke. "He deserves nothing from me, least of all an
explanation."

"Well it's your
decision but I think it might come back to haunt you. What happens if you do
move back and Tamara meets him? What are you going to do then?"

He watched her turning
it over in her mind. She twisted her hands together and threw quick, guarded
glances his way. Rooney wasn't as brave as she was making out but he was the
last person to call her on that.

"Can I stay at
your house tonight, Tory? I don't want to go home until the funeral."

"You know you
can…no need to ask. Mind telling me why you don't want to go and see your
brothers? It has been eight years and I know you miss them." The thought
of having her alone in his house was enough to have him doing cartwheels but he
contained himself and tried to act the family solicitor and her best friend.

"I'm afraid if I
see them I’ll give in and promise to stay without making sure it's the best
thing for me and Tamara before I move her from Brisbane. I need to think about
this rationally without my heart involved before I make a final decision."
She smiled up at him and his heart almost stopped beating. "I want to toss
it around with you over dinner, if that's okay?"

"Sure, sounds like
fun."

Rooney jumped up and
rounded the desk. She leaned down and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
"Thanks, Tory, I mean it. No one else has been so supportive for so long,
at least not anyone from my past. I'll get dinner tonight. Key still in the
same place?"

He untangled her arms
and breathed deeply, loathe to let her go before he’d had enough to get him
through the rest of the day. "Yep, you know where it is. I'll…uh…see you
just after five then."

With a heavy heart, he
watched her leave his office. He was afraid of what would happen when she moved
back. She had to confront her brothers and tell them the truth. Rooney also had
to tell Stevie, and Tory knew it wouldn't be pleasant.

 

Chapter Six

 

Cade drove up the long,
winding driveway wondering how he was going to get out of living here. His life
was in the city and so was his career. Gone was the young man who had left the
farm to go and play football in the city. It was where he’d made his life and a
successful career. Now he was a national hero, and he liked the lifestyle. It
would be impossible to lock himself away down on the farm on a permanent basis.
How to get around the terms of the will was going to be the hardest thing.
Anything was worth a go though.

He drove around the
back of the house to the old blacksmith’s shed, intent on getting his car out
of the weather and dust. Little had changed in the years he’d been away. His
mother’s roses still clambered over the wall of the kitchen garden and
free-roaming chickens darted over the green grass chasing bugs or picking at
whatever took their fancy, just as they had done when he was in charge of
finding all the hiding places for their eggs.

Deciding it was best
not to park under the large fig tree to avoid seeds falling on his car, Cade
parked inside the only empty stall. The other three had farm machinery parked
in them. He turned off the car and sat for a moment, excited to be home but
apprehensive at the same time. For his own reasons, he had not kept in touch
with anyone from his past, preferring to break free and start his new life.

Opening his door,
careful not to hit it against the wall of the narrow stall, he squeezed himself
out with his crutches in one hand. Cade leaned on the car and closed the door
before propping the crutches under his arm. He hobbled out of the stall and
looked around, squinting against the bright sunshine.

"You can't park
that thing in there. Find somewhere else for your damned toys."

Cade looked to his
left. A curvy redhead in tight blue denim jeans and a checked work shirt stood
with her hands on her hips, glaring at him. Her green eyes were pinned to his
face. He shook his head.

"Kate?” He laughed
loudly when he realised it was.

"Shut up, Cade.
Move it before I get back this afternoon." She turned her back to him and
walked off, her head held high.

"Well, well, well,
what do you know…little Katie grew up pretty good looking." He let his
gaze travel up and down her body, coming to settle on her hips as she had
walked down the hill and into the barn.
I wouldn't mind getting my fingers
tangled in that wild red hair while sampling those luscious lips.
He turned
to the house.
May as well get this over and done with
.

Music came from the old
original kitchen, separated from the house by a covered path, and he made his way
there first. He peered in through the open door. An iPod sat on the window sill
playing to an empty room.

A fresh coat of paint
had been applied and the old furniture he remembered no longer filled the
space. An old table stood next to the fireplace and a laptop computer sat open
on it. Filing cabinets leaned against the far wall and another smaller table
held what looked like sales sheets and dockets. Obviously it was someone's
office now.

He turned and walked
towards the main house, watching his footing over the rough cobblestones.
Pushing open the kitchen door, he stepped inside.

"Leave that door
open any longer and the flies will come in." Essie stood at the island
counter rolling pastry. "Get in here and shut the door."

"Sorry,
Essie." He hobbled in and shut the door behind him. "How are
you?"

"Better than you
by the look of things. What have you been doing to yourself, Cade? That doesn't
look too good." She wiped floury hands on her apron before stepping
forward to wrap her frail arms around his shoulders.

"It's nothing I
haven't had before, Essie. A few weeks rest and I'll be back into it " He
took a seat at the counter and leant his crutches against his thigh. "So,
how have you been? Not much seems to have changed around here."

"Now why would it?
No point in changing it if ain't broken."

Her words were clipped
and Cade felt the bite. "Is there a problem here I'm not seeing? You sound
a little bit annoyed." He clenched his teeth waiting for the lashing of
words he knew would his way. Essie had never held back on giving him a tongue
lashing as a youngster, and he doubted she’d softened over the years.

"The problem as I
see it is you never coming home to see your folks. Too busy now you’re a big
football
star
to care about the people back home who loved and raised you. Broke
your mother's heart it did, that you never came back." Essie slapped the
pastry down on the board and rolled it with more vigour than needed.

Cade bit the inside of
his lip. She was right but Essie didn't understand how hard it was to finally
break free from his father. It was a big step. It was easier to stay in the
city than to come here and have to go through the whole leaving again.

"Look, I'm sorry
you feel that way. It wasn't my intention to hurt you, I promise."

A small smile twitched
at the corners of her mouth.

"You know I love
you, Essie. I always have."

"Don't listen to
him, Essie. He's sucking up," Russ said as he walked into the kitchen.

"If I recall,
sucking up was always your job, brother." Cade's stomach tightened as he
looked at his big brother. As youngsters, they had clashed enough over Essie's
attention. Russ had always been her favourite, much to Cade's annoyance.
"I just tell it like it is."

"Yeah, right. Just
make sure you mind your manners then when you catch up with Kate. She doesn't
deserve any of you smart-mouthed crap."

"I already saw
her. Fiery little piece isn't she?" He knew the smirk on his face would
annoy his brother so he worked at keeping it there.

Russ leaned on the
bench and glared at him. "What did you do to her?"

"Nothing,"
Cade growled and slapped his hand on the counter. "I parked the Ferrari in
the shed and she told me to get it out. Christ, it's a three hundred thousand
dollar car. I'm not parking it outside for the bats to shit all over. It's
staying where it is."

"No, mate, it
isn't. Park it down in the barn with mine. There is more room there anyway. She
keeps the farm ute in there, so let her be." Russ leaned down on his arms
and grinned. "I don't think you want to see how much her temper matches
her hair now."

"Yeah I do,
actually. Is she, you know, attached?" She was so different to the skinny,
freckled kid who’d annoyed him with her incessant chatter as she followed him
everywhere.

BOOK: Coming Home
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