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Authors: Ann B Harrison

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BOOK: Coming Home
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"I wouldn't put it
past some of them to have had a word in the old man's ear." He glanced
over at Kate, his dinner forgotten while he toyed with his wine glass.
"So, tell me again how you managed to worm your way around him?"

"Cade, stop it
now!" Russ turned to Kate. "Don't let him goad you. Ignore him,
please Kate." Russ was mortified at his brother’s behaviour and from the
look on Kate's face, she was too.

"If you’re
suggesting I did anything sleazy to get this job, you are mistaken. Your father
took me in and offered me a job when I lost my parents. And just so you know, I
had to work my arse off to keep it too." She stood and glared at Cade.
"I would
never
sleep with a man to get what I want, unlike your
floozies do. I think better of myself than that. Funnily enough I have
standards, Cade. Something you know nothing about." She placed her napkin
on the table. "Excuse me." Kate walked out of the dining room with
her head held high.

"You idiot."
Russ glared at his brother.

"Fuck you, you
sanctimonious prick. You know nothing, Russ. The way you let people walk over
you and do what they want, it's just plain sickening."

"You don't know
what you're talking about," he replied. A sinking feeling clutched at his
stomach because he knew Cade spoke the truth.

"Yeah I do. You
signed everything over to that bitch of a wife just to save yourself an
argument. Don't try to deny it. You already said as much this afternoon."
He took another drink, draining his glass. "It's no wonder you have
nothing, brother. You’re a total walkover. I refuse to be like that. If I want
something, I'll take it."

"Kate's not like that.
You know she isn't." Russ pushed his plate away, his appetite gone.
"She’s had to work for what she has."

"Yeah, sure. She
has her foot in the door, buddy, and there is no getting rid of her. Just watch
she doesn't get her claws into you too."

"We are friends
and that won't change. You need to take a good hard look at yourself, Cade.
You've turned bitter and it doesn't look good on you." Russ stood.
"Excuse me." He walked from the room as his brother’s laughter
followed him.

He made his apologies
to Essie on his way through the kitchen. She tsked and headed for the dining
room, a frown on her face. Hopefully she would give Cade a talking too. She was
the only one who could get him to listen. The only one who wasn't charmed by
his smile and good looks.

Russ walked outside and
around the back of the house. He could see the lights on in Kate's house and
headed across the lawn. He knocked on the door and stood back waiting for her
to answer. Just when he lifted his hand to knock again, the door opened and Kate
stood there, tears drying on her cheeks.

"Hey."

"Kate, can I come
in?" He lifted his hand and wiped away the dampness on her cheek.

"Sure." She
stood back and Russ stepped into the converted house. The last time he’d been
inside was when he was hiding from his father amongst the dark, almost derelict
rooms. Now the old cottage was filled with light and feminine furniture. He was
aware of her gaze following his as he looked around the tiny lounge into the
kitchen.

"Wow, this is
fantastic."

"You didn't come
to look at my decorating, Russ. What do you want?" She sniffed and wiped
her nose on the back of her shirt sleeve.

"Katie, I'm sorry
he’s such a jerk. I guess he hasn't changed as much as I’d hoped." Russ
watched as the tears welled in her eyes again, trickling down her face. He
opened his arms and she fell against his chest, sobbing. He kissed the top of
her head and soothed her with soft words of comfort as she sobbed her heart
out. When her cries turned to soft hiccups, he held her away from to look down
at her face.

"Hey, he isn't
worth it. There has to be someone else out there you could fall in love
with."

Kate laughed bitterly,
pulling away from him. She walked into the lounge and dropped onto the couch,
reaching for a box of tissues on the coffee table in front of her. "You
would think so, wouldn't you? But no, stupid me has chosen to allow the teenage
crush to rage away worse than ever."

"I don't think we
get a choice in who we fall in love with." He moved over to sit down
beside her.

"I'm sorry, Russ.
This must be hard for you." She blew her nose and grabbed another tissue.

"I can cope with
it. Things weren’t good for a while, so it wasn't as though I never saw it
coming. I must remember to be more careful in future." He looked down when
a ginger cat rubbed against his legs. "What have we here?" Russ
picked up the cat and it rubbed its face against his chin.

"Wally, the
only
man who can treat me like I'm just there for his benefit." Kate reached
over and tickled Wally under his ears. "Thanks for trying to make me feel
better. I appreciate it, Russ. I'm sorry I ruined your dinner."

"I kind of lost my
appetite too, listening to Cade rave on. The guy has some serious issues. Guess
it comes with the fame, although I don't really understand it." He turned
and leaned back on the couch watching the cat walk over to Kate and smooch up
to her.

"Thanks for
letting me cry on your shirt." She gave a small laugh. "If I can
return the favour anytime, feel free to knock on my door."

Russ nodded and stood.
"Thanks. So long as you’re okay, I'll leave you alone. I think I’d better
go and settle Essie's ruffled feathers now. She was going in to sort out Cade.
I'd hate to see which one comes off better after he’s been drinking."

"I'll see you
tomorrow at the funeral then."

"Yes, I guess so.
Night, Kate."

Russ walked away, his
stomach in a knot over the approaching funeral. Cade had hit a sore point with
him. He was worried about who would be there tomorrow to farewell his father
and who would be there to see what the family were going to do.
I just hope
Cade doesn't go spouting off and blow what chance Rooney and I have of a new
life here
.

 

Chapter Ten

 

Russ greeted mourners
the next day before the funeral, accepting condolences and well wishes. When he
saw Tory drive up with his sister in the front seat, he stepped forward then
hesitated, unsure how she would react to seeing him after so long. He watched
Rooney grasp Tory's arm as he helped her from the car. He leaned down and spoke
to her.
They’ve always been close. I hope I can have that bond with her
again. When we were kids it was nice and easy now, after all that's happened,
who knows.
When Rooney nodded her head, Tory stood back and looked toward
the chapel where Russ was standing watching and listening.

"Better?" He
held her by the tops of her arms, keeping her steady until she nodded her head.

Rooney looked up at him
and gave a wobbly smile. "This is harder than I thought it was going to
be."

"It's okay, honey.
You don't have to be tough. I've got you."

Tory slipped his arm
around her shoulders and walked along the crushed granite pathway to the small
sandstone chapel in the grounds of the family home. She glanced at the small
graveyard, her grip on Tory's arm tightened and she held her head high.

"Rooney."
Russ reached for her and she collapsed in his arms "Shush, honey." He
stroked her hair and held her as she cried. "Tory, thanks for bringing
her."

Russ glanced at Tory
and, seeing the pain on his face, it hit him how much Rooney meant to him.
Never
saw that one coming.

"Russ." The
pain was etched into the lines around Tory's mouth. His eyes were filled with
love as his gaze settled on Rooney's tear-stained face but he stood by letting
her give in to her grief in her brothers arms.

She stood back, but
held onto Russ’s arm. "Sorry about that. It just kind of hit me seeing you
standing there, Russ."

"I've missed you,
Rooney. We need to talk after everyone has left." He smiled, hoping to
ease the strain on her face. "There’s a lot to catch up on."

A shadow crossed her
face and he glanced over at Tory, who looked away, refusing to meet Russ's
gaze.

"Sure. Let's just
get through this first, please." She wiped her nose and looked in the door
at the crowd already sitting inside the chapel. "Is Cade in there?"

"No, not yet. He
shouldn't be too far away though. He was ready when I left." Russ looked
into his sister’s icy blue eyes and winced at the pain he saw there. "Did
you want me to go and find him for you?"

"No, it's okay.
I'll see him sooner or later." She turned to Tory. "Can we all go in
together…please?"

Russ and Tory shared a
glance and then stood either side of Rooney, arms linked and walked her inside.
The cloying smell of lilies filled the small chapel and Russ wished someone had
chosen a different flower. They reminded him too much of his mother's funeral.

Keeping his gaze ahead
on the minister waiting to start the service, Russ guided his sister to the
front seat and waited while she sat before looking around the faces of those who
were here to pay their last respects to his father. He noticed Essie sitting in
the pew behind him and he reached back, briefly touching her on the shoulder.
She gave him a sad smile and he took his seat.

The minister
approached. "Is there anyone else before we start, Russ?"

"Cade..."

"Is here,"
his brother said as he hobbled down the aisle. He leaned down and kissed
Rooney, whispering in her ear before dropping onto the hard wooden seat beside
Tory.

The service passed in a
blur and by the time the last of the mourners had shared food with them and
left, Russ was rubbing his temples, the tightness giving him the mother of all
headaches.

"Russ."
Rooney looked up at him. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a bun and her
pale skin was free of makeup. Redness rimmed her steely blue eyes and Russ knew
there were going to be more tears by the glimmer of moisture in her eyes. He
had been watching out for her and she hadn't yet been up to see their mother’s
grave. As their father’s casket was laid in the ground, Rooney had looked away,
her gaze on the hills she used to ride as a child.

"Hey, you
okay?" He slipped his arm around her shoulders and walked her outside to
the garden.

"I will be. I
guess. Can you come with me up to the grave now there is no one here? I need to
say goodbye to Mum, and I don't think I can do it on my own."

"Sure, but
wouldn't you rather have Cade take you up?"

"He's sitting on
the front veranda with a bottle of whiskey. I doubt he’ll be going anywhere for
some time." She looked up at him, her lips quivering as tears gathered in
the corners of her eyes once more.

"Come on
then." Russ sucked in a deep breath and walked her up the hill toward the
chapel.

***

 

Rooney felt her stomach
rolling as they followed the fence line down toward the chapel. The wind blew
enough to cool the summer heat rolling over the hills. She glanced around at
the farm as they neared the graves. Nothing had changed since she was last
home. Pushing away all other thoughts, she looked over the fence as Russ
reached for the latch on the gate. She’d dreaded this moment ever since Tory
had called her to tell her the news. Now she had to farewell both her parents
on the same day. It was a hard call for even the strongest heart.

She held onto Russ's
arm, her fingernails would no doubt leave marks on his skin. Afraid she would
fall, she gripped harder.

Russ patted her hand,
and soothed her with the same words he’d used when she’d nightmares as a child.
"It’ll be fine, baby girl, I'm here for you. I won't let you go."

He would sit on her bed
with his arms wrapped around her shoulders as she trembled with the horror only
a small child could conjure up in their heads. When the lights went out and
their world was a labyrinth of dark tunnels where all the monsters imaginable
lived, waiting for her to close her eyes.

By the time the sun
rose in the morning, Russ would be cradling his little sister in his arms,
extracting her from the tangle of her sheets. He spent the night while she
slept protecting her from the monsters that chased her in her dreams.

They stood looking over
at the mound of freshly dug dirt covered in flowers where they had laid their
father to rest this morning. Beside it was the simple headstone for their
mother. Rooney wondered who had placed the fresh flowers in the vase and wished
she'd the courage to do it herself.

"Ready?" He
looked down into her eyes and gave a gentle smile. "Take your time,
honey."

Her voice came out
hoarse. "Thanks." She lifted her chin and took a step forward. After
the first step, it became easier and they walked to the headstone. Rooney eased
up on her grip on her brother’s arm, breathing deeply to steady herself.
I
can do this, I can do this.

The grave site was kept
neat and tidy. Her mother's favourite rose bush rambled over the lower fence
where the valley dropped down to the river.
Had someone moved a bush from
the garden or take cuttings and if so, who? It might have been Essie because I
doubt it would be Father.

BOOK: Coming Home
7.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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