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Authors: Margaret Tanner

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BOOK: Lauren's Dilemma
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As if
suddenly remembering others were present, he dropped his arms and stepped back
a pace.

“Danny,
this is my aunt, Mrs. Cunningham, and my cousin, Helen and her fiancé, Captain
Blair Sinclair.”

“Pleased to
meet all of you.” Danny gave a slight bow. “Good of you to let Laurie stay here
at such short notice,” he said to Aunt Jane.

His
laughing brown eyes glowed with a reckless light. Blair rose to his feet and
held out his hand.

“I'm
pleased to meet you, Danny.”

“Same here,
Sir.”

“How have
you been?” Danny swiveled around to face her.

“Very well,
thank you,” she answered primly, trying not to laugh.

“Aw, heck.”
He pushed her back into the chair, and sat on the arm holding her hand. “Is
there anywhere I can eat? I'm starving. I left camp as soon as your message
came through, but it took me hours to get here. I walked five miles to Coburg, caught a tram into Melbourne, changed trams, then walked for
miles,” he exaggerated.

Laurie
giggled, ignoring Aunt Jane's disapproving frown. “Could Danny have something
to eat, please?”

“If you go
to the kitchen, cook should be able to find you something,” Helen put in
haughtily.

Anger
flashed in Danny's eyes.

“Helen,”
Blair reproached her.

“Only
joking.” Hastily her manner changed.

Laurie,
knowing Helen had delivered the slight on purpose, seethed. Stuck up snob.

“Of course,
take no notice of Helen’s little joke,” Aunt Jane rushed to her daughter's
defense. “Your young man must have something to eat. I'll have one of the maids
bring in a tray.”

“It doesn't
matter, Mrs. Cunningham, I could eat out in the kitchen.”

“I'll come
with you.” Laurie made to rise.

“Now
please, I insist, you must have a tray in here, or would you prefer the dining
room?”

“Here will
be all right. Come on, Laurie.” Danny shrugged. “I don't care where I eat, as
long as I get some food. A sandwich would do, though.”

“My dear
boy, we can do better than a sandwich.” Aunt Jane shuddered at the idea. “A
chicken salad, I feel sure cook could organize that, and we can all have coffee
together.”

In about
ten minutes a scrumptious chicken salad was placed on a small table in front of
Danny, who started eating with his usual enthusiasm, only stopping every now
and again to give Laurie a grin. She smiled back, inwardly seething at Helen's
rudeness. Because he wasn't an officer or from an upper-class family she had
tried to belittle him.

“This is a
beautiful house,” Danny addressed no one in particular. Aunt Jane smiled.
Laurie realized her aunt liked people to admire her possessions.

“Our garden
backs onto the beach. Perhaps you would care to take a stroll later on with
Lauren.” She sounded all graciousness now.

Helen and Blair
took no further part in the conversation, seemingly too engrossed with each
other.

“I hope
you'll excuse us,” Blair said. “We have an afternoon engagement.”

“We don't
mind. Laurie can show me around.” Danny laughed. He was obviously pleased to
see her, but his eyes blazed with something she could not quite understand.

“Get your
hat, and we’ll go for a walk. Ever ridden in a cable tram?”

Leaving
Danny and Blair chatting to Aunt Jane, she followed Helen upstairs. They did
not speak, Laurie vowing not to even try starting up a conversation after what
had happened.

“Couldn’t
you find someone more suitable than a common lout like him?”

“There's
nothing wrong with Danny. At least he isn't rude like you.” She pushed past
Helen and slammed the door in her face.

The
reflection in her mirror as she brushed her hair, showed anger lending a rosy
hue to her cheeks. “Oh, Danny, I love you, but you’re so reckless you frighten
me.”

She put on
the cream straw hat she had worn on the train, picked up a clean handkerchief
and left the room.

Back in the
sitting room, Blair and Danny talked earnestly together, but they broke off as
soon as she entered.

“Danny will
be staying for dinner,” Aunt Jane announced. “Your Uncle Richard will make sure
he's driven back to camp later. Now off you two go and enjoy yourselves.” She
bestowed a benevolent smile on them. Laurie could hardly believe her eyes.
Danny must have poured on the charm.

“Goodbye,
Aunt Jane.” She kissed her aunt's cheek.

“Enjoy
yourself, child. Now take good care of our Lauren, won't you, Danny?”

Laurie
stifled a giggle behind one hand, as Danny in true gentlemanly fashion bowed.

“I'll take
good care of her, don’t worry.” She caught his wink when he turned his head
towards her.

“Goodbye,
Blair.” Helen had not shown up, and Laurie wasn't sorry. She was beginning to
dislike her cousin more and more.

“I'll see
you both at dinner. Enjoy yourselves.” Blair did not smile and his eyes were
dark and somber. She didn’t know why she felt pleased he would be sharing their
meal. What would it take to make him laugh?

A maid let
them out of the house, and once in the street Danny put on his slouch hat. They
linked arms as they strolled along the path. She was filled with pride to be
seen in the company of such a handsome young soldier.

They ambled
along for a time admiring the many mansions with their park-like gardens. Even
the smaller, more modest houses looked pretty.

“I've
missed you like hell.” He pulled her into his arms and his kisses were hot and
fierce.

“Danny,
please, someone might see.”

“Don't you
want to kiss me?”

“Yes,
but…”
 

His lips
obliterated the rest of her answer. His hands pressed her so hard against him,
the buttons on his uniform jacket dug into her breasts.

He moved
his tongue inside her mouth, darting, flicking and tasting. She found herself
responding to him. Her heart fluttered and excitement swirled around in the pit
of her stomach.

“I love
you, Laurie.” He shifted his lips so he could nibble her throat. “My mate told
me about this hotel where they don't ask any questions.”

“What!” She
stiffened in his arms.

“Please.”
He wrapped his arms around her waist. “I've thought of nothing else for days.
I’m just about out of my mind with wanting you.”

“I, I…
can't.”

“If you
loved me, you would.” His tone became sullen. “You're my girl. We're going to
get married one day, so why not?”

“Sneaking
off to some cheap hotel room would make everything seem sordid.”

“Yeah, too
good for a common private, huh? You're acting like some outraged virgin, and we
both know you aren't.”

Hot tears
sprang to her eyes as she twisted away from him. She couldn’t believe he would
say something so cruel to her.

“Laurie.”
He strode after her. “God, I’m sorry.
 
What a filthy thing to say.” He grabbed her arm. “Please, I’m a bastard.
I didn't mean it.”

“Yes, you
did.” She let him swing her around. “It's true.” Huge tears hung on her lashes.

“No. You're
beautiful, far too good for me. You always have been. I love you so much, it’s
the only excuse I can offer. Oh, Laurie, Laurie.” He pulled her head onto his
chest. “I'd cut my tongue out if it would do any good. You're the best girl a
man could ever have.”

He threaded
his fingers through her hair. “I didn't mean what I said. I love you so much
and I wanted you. We mightn't see each other for ages. I got desperate and lost
my temper,” his voice broke. “There won't ever be anyone else for me. You're
the only person in the world I care about.”

“Danny,
Danny.” She nuzzled her face into the warm flesh of his throat. “It isn't that
I don't love you. I'm frightened I might have a baby.”

His body
went rigid. “Hell! You think you might be having one?”

“No.”

He sagged
against her with relief.

“A week
after you left, I knew everything was all right.”

“I’m a
bastard for asking you to take such a risk again. Honestly I didn't even think
about it.”

“Men never
do, but it’s all right as long as you still respect me. I couldn't bear it if
you didn't.”

“You know I
do. If we were older we could get married straight away, but there's no way
your father would give his consent. Later on, when I've made something of
myself, he might agree.”

His lips
brushed hers in a gentle caress. “Tell me all the news from home.”

She filled
him in on all the local gossip. As he did not ask about his Uncle Alf, she
volunteered no information about him.

“Your
father didn't mind you coming down to Melbourne?”

She gave a
defiant toss of her head. “He wouldn't let me, so I came anyway.”

“Hell.” He
slapped his forehead with his open hand.

“It's all
right, I told Uncle Richard. He's going to fix everything with Dad.”

“You defied
your father for me?” He hugged her tight, and everything felt right with her
world again. Be cheerful. You want him to go to the war with happy memories,
not neglect his own safety because of worry about you.

“Seen much
of the Bryson brothers?”

“Nope, they
got transferred to a field ambulance unit, so I've only run into them a couple
of times since. Captain Sinclair is a lucky devil. I wanted to join the Light
Horse, but I was worried about the war ending before I got there. Now they
won't let me transfer. Let's catch a tram into Melbourne and I'll buy you afternoon tea. I
heard of a nice tearoom from a mate.”

The cable
trams were painted in distinctive colors and Laurie tried to curb her
excitement. She had never been on a tram before. They climbed into the first
car, which Danny explained was called a dummy.

“How do you
know all about it?” she teased.

“Easy.
Ernie, my mate, used to be a grip man on the trams, born and bred in Melbourne, so he knows his
way about. Told me about the tearooms, too.”

Danny
pointed out an iron handle, which passed through a slit so it could grip the
cable below. “You see, when the grip man wants the tram to go forward, he uses
a lever to close the gripper on the cable. When he wants to stop, he lets the
cable go and applies the brakes. It sounds easy. I could probably drive one
myself,” he boasted.

Except for
the roof, the dummy was quite open, and she preferred this to the closed-in
trailer part. The breeze lifted up her hair, whipping it across her face in gay
abandonment, and had her clutching her hat lest it should fly away.

Danny gazed
into her flushed face. How beautiful she was, and he hated himself afresh for
the cruel words he had thrown at her. He wanted to go to the war, craved the
excitement, but leaving Laurie was the hardest thing he had done in his life. A
few months away would quell the restlessness that had become a driving force
within him, and then he would never leave her side again.

“I don’t
need to ask whether you're enjoying yourself,” he said.

“It's
wonderful! I love it.” The soft shining light in her eyes told him she had
forgiven him, and he was glad. She meant more to him than any living person and
always would.

“Is this
your first ride, Miss?” the grip man asked.

“Yes, I love
it.”

All too
soon the ride ended. Danny helped her alight with a hand under one elbow. She
put her hat back on and ran her fingers through her hair to give it some
semblance of order before slipping her arm through his.

Inside the
small tearoom they sat on a red velvet seat positioned against a wall. All the
tables were covered with lacy white cloths, adding to the atmosphere of quiet
refinement.

“How about
a pot of tea and some scones with jam and cream?” he asked

“Thanks,
sounds nice.”

When the
food arrived they ate hungrily. “Beautiful.” She wiped a dab of cream from her
lips with a red serviette.

“I'm glad
you enjoyed it. Would you like to browse around the shops, or we could go back
to your aunt's place, maybe take a stroll along the beach before it gets late.”

“A stroll
along the beach, I think.” She gave an excited giggle.

Danny
picked up the docket and paid their bill on the way out. Once more they found
themselves jammed between throngs of scurrying people. As far as she could see,
Melbourne
people rushed everywhere. Such clatter and noise was terrible.

In the
motorized cab she sighed with pleasure as they reclined in comfortable seats.

“I'm being
spoilt, cable trams, motorized taxis. Blair and Helen picked me up from the
station in a Ford. Dad won't believe all the things I’ve done. Are you really
happy?” She bit her lip. “I mean in the army and everything.”

BOOK: Lauren's Dilemma
9.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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