First Love, Last Love(5)

By: Carole Mortimer

'Big of you to admit it,' Jeannie teased.

Lauri took the cover off her typewriter. 'You can't deny the truth. But looks aren't everything.'

'Don't tell me looks don't enter into you dating Daryl, because I just won't believe it.' Diane sat at the adjoining desk. 'A big blond, muscular Canadian,' she teased.

Lauri blushed. 'He's intelligent too,' she defended the boy she had been dating the last couple of weeks, a Canadian of twenty who did temporary work to subsidize his travelling around the world. At the moment he was working in the Accounts Department here.

'Oh, I'm glad about that,' her friend laughed. 'Don't get me wrong, I think he's really nice, very good-looking, but you must have noticed those looks before you ever found out what a nice person he is.'

'Mm… I suppose so. But Alexander Blair doesn't appear to me to be a nice person.' Far from it!

'That's not what his girl-friends think.'

'Doesn't the fact that it's girls, in the plural, tell you anything?'

Diane laughed. 'Oh yes, it tells me something.'

'I didn't mean that!' Lauri said impatiently.

'I did,' Diane laughed again.

'I'm going to do some work,' Lauri said crossly. 'Before Carly starts chucking her weight about,' she added mischievously.

'I heard that,' her supervisor called out, a young girl of twenty who ruled by friendly teamwork rather than by issuing orders.

Lauri grinned before bending over her work, the subject of her not liking Alexander Blair forgotten for the moment. At least, by the other girls it was; she was still seething at his high-handedness.

She met Daryl for lunch as usual, and they went to the local Wimpy bar, where Lauri bit hungrily into her delicious hamburger. 'Mm, I needed that,' she sat back with a grin. 'Is there something wrong with yours?' she noticed he didn't appear to be enjoying it.

'It's all right.' His Canadian drawl was very noticeable. 'I'm just not hungry,' he pushed his plate away.

Lauri frowned, her green eyes troubled. 'What is it, Daryl? What's wrong?'

'You know what's wrong,' he told her moodily. 'Although you don't seem to give a damn. I go to Ireland at the end of the week and—'

'And I'm not going with you,' she said patiently. 'I've told you before, I don't want to go.'

'But if you don't come with me I won't see you again.'

'You don't have to leave, Daryl,' she pointed out reasonably. 'You can always stay here.'

He sighed. 'My job at Blair's finishes on Friday. Besides, I've already got my fare to Ireland booked, it was booked long before I even met you.'

'I'm not going with you, Daryl, so you might as well stop sulking and eat your lunch.'

His hand moved to caress hers as it lay on her denim-clad thigh. 'I can't think of food when I'm going to be parted from you at the end of the week.'

'Don't be silly,' she laughed lightly. 'I've only known you a couple of weeks, we hardly know one another well enough to—to—'

'I'm not asking for more than a travelling companion,' he persisted. 'We would have separate accommodation.'

'At the beginning,' she said knowingly. 'I'm not that naive, Daryl. How long do you think it would be before you suggested we save the expense of the second room?'

His tanned golden skin colored a ruddy hue and he looked slightly sheepish. 'I never thought of you as a prude.'

'Oh, not that!' she laughed again. 'You won't get round me by issuing that sort of challenge. I'm not a prude, but neither am I a sleep-around. We've had a good couple of weeks, had fun together, let's leave it at that, hmm?'

'I don't want to.' His hand tightened on hers. 'Come with me, Lauri. Please!'

She sighed. 'I told you, no.' She pulled her hand out of his. 'My aunt would never agree anyway,' she added, as if that ended the matter. She would never go against Jane, loving and respecting her too much to hurt her.

Daryl scowled. 'She acts more like your mother than your aunt.'

Daryl and Jane had only met once, one evening when Daryl had returned Lauri home rather late, and her aunt had shown her displeasure with the lateness of the hour. They had taken an instant dislike to each other, and although Jane never tried to influence her in her choice of friends Lauri had been conscious of her aunt's disapproval of Daryl.

'In a way she is, she's brought me up since I was seven,' Lauri bristled angrily on behalf of her aunt. 'And we were late that night. She had a right to be cross with us.'

'It was a Saturday, Lauri. You didn't have to go to work in the morning. And we'd been to a party.'

'It was three o'clock in the morning!'

He smiled. 'Some of the parties I go to back home go on until morning.'

'They do here too, and I've been to a couple of them, but not without telling Jane first.'

'She isn't your keeper!' he said resentfully.

Lauri sighed. 'I'm not going to argue with you, Daryl, not at this late date in our friendship. We'll just have to agree to differ about the loyalty and respect I owe my aunt.'