The Older Man

The Older Man by Laurey Bright

Book: The Older Man by Laurey Bright Read Free Book Online
Authors: Laurey Bright
Tags: Romance
father will think we’re a couple of sausages.”
    But he wasn’t to be laughed out of it. “Will he be angry?” he asked fearfully.
    “No, of course he won’t. It wasn’t your fault, Toby. And it’ll wash off. Don’t worry about it.”
    By the time Grant came home she had Toby’s clothes soaking in the laundry, and had sponged the worst of the stains off her own T-shirt and jeans. But Grant’s eyebrows rose as she greeted him. “What happened to you?”
    Before she could answer, Ellen flew past her and Grant bent to lift the child into his arms. As Ellen buried her face in his shoulder, he looked at Rennie again. “Is someone hurt?” he asked sharply. “Where’s Toby?”
    “It’s all right,” she said. “It’s not blood, it’s tomato sauce. Toby’s in his room, getting into some clean clothes.”
    “Clean clothes? He had clean clothes this morning. Is he covered in tomato sauce, too, by any chance?”
    “By some chance,” Rennie admitted. “Don’t growl at him, will you? It was an accident.”
    “I certainly hope so,” Grant said mildly. “What makes you think I’d growl at him?”
    “I don’t. But he seemed very anxious, as though he expected someone would.”
    “I’ll go and talk to him. Oh, do you want to leave now? It’s well after five.”
    Ellen, who had been silently hugging her father, suddenly twisted in his arms. “No!”
    Rennie looked at her panic-stricken face and went to her swiftly. “It’s all right, Ellen, I’ll come back tomorrow.”
    “No! Don’t go ‘way, Rennie! Don’t go ‘way!”
    None of Rennie’s or her father’s reassurances could console her, and she became more and more frantic, until Grant, prising her arms away from Rennie’s neck, told Rennie, “Just go. She’ll settle down eventually.”
    Ellen was screaming, now, her cheeks red with weeping. Grant’s face was taut with strain. “Stop it, Ellen!” he said sternly, his arms close about her as she flailed against him. “That’s enough, sweetheart. Come on, now.”
    Toby had come out of his room and was standing in the doorway, watching. Reluctantly, Rennie started towards the door with her bag.
    Toby looked at her. “Is Ellen being naughty?” he asked nervously.
    “No, Toby.” Rennie went down on her knees. “She’s just upset because I have to go home.”
    “Why do you have to?” he asked. His gaze was almost accusing, and Rennie felt like a deserter.
    “I’ll be back tomorrow,” she said again. “I’ll be here every day.”
    “That’s what Mrs Beddoe said.”
    And Mrs Beddoe, of course, had instead flown to her daughter’s side. Quite rightly and naturally, but how could Toby and Ellen be expected to understand?
    She gave Toby a hug and stood up to leave. Ellen’s screams had increased in volume, and Grant was just holding her tightly, alternately shushing her and murmuring into her ear, his own expression tortured.
    “I don’t have to go,” Rennie heard herself saying to Grant. “You’ve got a spare room, haven’t you?”
    She saw the quick hope in his face, that he extinguished immediately. “We can’t expect that from you. Go on home.”
    “No.” She crossed the room again and before she even got there Ellen had flung herself into her arms. She sat down with the child on the nearest armchair and began stroking her hair.
    “She’ll have to learn eventually,” Grant said, rubbing a hand through his own hair, “that she can’t get everyone to do what she wants by screaming about it.”
    Rennie shook her head. “It’s more than that.” She glanced down at Ellen, who had stopped screaming but was sobbing heavily, and wetting Rennie’s already abused T-shirt with her tears. “We can’t talk about it now. But I’ll phone home and ask Shane to bring over my toothbrush and pyjamas. And a change of clothes,” she added ruefully.
    Toby came over to the chair and stared at his sister, then at Rennie. “Are you going to stay?” he asked.
    “Yes,” Rennie

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