Читать онлайн "The Deep End of Fear" автора Чэндлер Элизабет - RuLit - Страница 7

 
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Trent was sitting at a desk, dressed in a business suit, reading some kind of document. He was still slender, with thin, almost colorless hair. He had adored Ashley but had been hopeless at playing. She and I had had a much better time with my father, who, though I hadn't realized it then, had the imagination and heart of a child.

"Trent," Emily said, "here's Patrick, and his new tutor, Kate Venerelli."

Trent's blue eyes looked up over his reading glasses. He rose from his seat. "Good God!"

I had thought Mrs. Hopewell and Robyn would have warned Trent about me, but the small, satisfied curve of Robyn's lips suggested they hadn't. The little color Trent had in his cheeks disappeared completely.

"You're a double for your mother."

Patrick gazed up at me. "You have a mother?"

"Everyone has one at birth," I replied.

"How old are you now?" Trent asked me.

"Seventeen."

I could see him doing the mental calculation. Ashley would be nineteen. As children, both of us had strongly resembled our mothers. What would Ashley have looked like now-another Corinne, his wife when he first met her?

"I was sorry to learn about your father's death," he said.

I nodded, but Trent didn't see it, sitting down again, his eyes returning to the paper he'd been reading before he had even finished his sentence.

"Here's Patrick," Emily said, sounding a little peeved that her son had not been acknowledged by Trent.

"Hello, Patrick," Trent responded, without looking up. When Patrick didn't reply, Trent added crisply, "Children speak when spoken to."

And when looked at, I thought.

"Hi," Patrick said, his lips barely parting. He had learned from his half brother how to greet a person coldly.

"So when will your charming son arrive, Robyn?" Trent asked.

"By now, I thought." She returned the cell phone to her pocket. "I'm worried."

"You don't think he stopped by a few parties on the way up from Beach Ball University, do you?"

"No, Uncle Trent, I did not," replied a deep voice, "because I knew how delighted you would be to see me."

"Brook,'' his mother greeted him with relief. He kissed her, his lips barely brushing her cheek.

Ashley's cousin and "best enemy" had inherited the Westbrook look, a handsome, large-featured face, dark hair, and blue eyes.

I can't tell you how happy I was to leave sunny Florida and come back to this cold, damp place," Brook said sarcastically. "Exactly when is dear Grandfather coming home?"

"Tomorrow, Brook, and I'm counting on you," his mother responded with a meaning-filled look.

"As always," he replied casually, and sprawled in a chair, one foot up on the low table in front of him. His skin was deeply tanned. "And who are you?"

he asked, eyeing me.

"Kate."

"Kate Venerelli," his mother said.

Brook blinked. I could see the change in his eyes. "Katie!" he exclaimed softly, sitting up straight. His eyes traveled down and up me in a way that made me squirm inside, which wasn't much different from the way I reacted to him when I was five. I had steered clear of a boy who played hard enough to hurt, kicked nests of wild kittens, and threw rocks at a pet when he thought no one was looking.

"Kate is Patrick's tutor," Emily said.

Brook glanced at Patrick. "Hey, little jerk." There was no fondness in his greeting.

Patrick simply stared at him, which made Brook laugh.

"You know, Patrick, I always thought you were stupid. But maybe you're not as dumb as I figured-maybe you've been faking it so you could get a pretty tutor."

Emily took a step toward Brook.

"Just teasing," he added quickly, unconvincingly. His gaze skipped around the room. "Something's missing," he said. "Ah! The old dragon."

Trent immediately turned toward the fireplace mantel behind him.

"I guess she's in the kitchen chewing out Cook," Brook added, pleased with his little joke, which apparently referred to Mrs. Hopewell.

"Where is the Chinese dragon?" Trent asked, still surveying the mantel.

"Robyn took it," Emily replied, like a child happy to tattle. "She claims your father promised it to her."

"You are truly amazing, Robyn," Trent said to his sister. "One day I'm going to come home and find the main house stripped. But I'll know where to find everything-in your wing."

"Not if I sell it first," Robyn retorted. "Besides, Daddy did say he would give it to me."

Trent rose, lifted a small bronze from the mantel and carefully turned it in his hands, as if appraising it, then placed the figure in his open briefcase.

"Guess what? Dad promised this sculpture to me."

Brook threw back his head and laughed. Emily got the same tight-lipped look as I had seen on Patrick's face. I had been right about her: She was intimidated enough by her husband's children not to insist that these things still belonged to Adrian.

"So Grandfather is on his last legs," Brook said. "That's hard to imagine."

"I find your lack of respect appalling," Emily said to Brook, apparently not cowed by a college student.

"Oh come now, Emily, why else would you have married an old man?" Robyn challenged her.

"It's called love, Robyn, but I doubt that word is in your vocabulary."

"You are wrong! I have loved him all my life," Robyn replied, with such intensity that her voice sounded strange. I have loved him, lived with him, and taken care of him longer than you have."

"The prognosis is less than a year," Trent told Brook.

Joseph was right, I thought. Adrian was dying and the vultures were gathering, each one afraid that the next person would get a larger slice of the inheritance. What a lovely group for a child to grow up around!

"I'm taking Patrick outside," I said.

He bolted for the door, and I followed.

"Play clothes," his mother called after us. "Put on his play clothes, Kate."

I didn't know a little boy could peel and dress so quickly. He ended up with his mittens on the wrong hands, which we fixed when we got outside. We walked silently for a few moments. I let him lead the way and guessed that we were going to the pond.

"What does it mean, 'on his last legs'?" Patrick asked me when we were a distance from the house.

I hesitated, then lied. "I'm not sure. It must be an American expression. Sometime when you and your mother are alone, ask her."

We walked beyond the formal gardens and through a bare orchard that ended at paddocks and a horse barn. As a child I had thought I was luckier than Ashley because my parents and I lived in one of the employee cottages, which was near the horse bam and, better yet, an empty cow barn with lofts and ladders, where Ashley and I had liked to play. Between the horse and cow barns was Ashley's favorite place, the pond.

Surrounded by a thick ring of trees, mostly cedar and pine, it was reached by a narrow path. Round, about half the size of a soccer field, the pond looked as it had twelve years before, but the collar of vegetation had tightened around it, the circle of evergreens growing inward, encroaching on its edge, casting long shadows on its half-frozen surface. Dying things and living things mixed together here. A rush of feelings came back to me with the distinctive smell-a smell that was both fresh green and thick with decay. Alone with Ashley, knowing no one could see us, I had found the pond a frightening place. Ashley could think of a hundred forbidden things to do.

"Want to play hockey?" Patrick asked.

"Here?" After what had happened to Ashley, surely someone had taught him "We can pretend we're on skates and use branches for hockey sticks."

     

 

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