The time flew, and it was closer to one-thirty when she put down her book to pick up her phone.
‘Cleo, I thought you’d be calling me again,’ Pat greeted her. ‘How are things in your part of the world? How’s my favourite niece?’
‘All good, and Han’s in fine form. She’s loving teaching. We just had dinner together.’
‘Dinner? You keep late hours. It must be after midnight where you are,’ she chuckled.
‘You’re right. She left over an hour ago. I’ve been reading till I judged I could ring you without getting you out of bed.’
‘So, how can I help? If it’s about what we talked about, I may have some further information. Did you talk with Hannah about what I told you?’
‘I did, and she didn’t want to know. She has no desire to hear any more about it, about her. But I’m curious. What more have you discovered, Pat?’
Cleo’s hand went to her mouth, but she didn’t speak.
‘I don’t move in the same circles,’ Pat continued, ‘so I hadn’t heard. But, after we spoke, I put out a few feelers – more to see what I could learn about Kerri-Ann than anything else. From what my sources tell me, she must have died around the time Hannah heard from Kerri-Ann.’
‘Oh!’ This could explain the timing.
‘As far as I know, she’s still in town, staying with her stepfather. Seems she never married. She went off to San Francisco for a while, then came back when Gloria got sick.’
‘Oh!’ Cleo said again. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected to hear, but this wasn’t it.
‘Sorry I can’t be more precise, but it would seem when Gloria died, Kerri-Ann started to think about her other family.’
Her other family? Is thathowshe viewed Hannah?
‘Thanks, Pat.’ Cleo yawned. ‘I guess I should go to bed now.’
‘Take care… and if I can be of any more help…’
‘I’ll call you.’ Cleo ended the call, yawned again and headed to bed.
To her surprise, Cleo slept soundly, only wakening when the resident kookaburra began to cackle outside her bedroom window. She turned over with a groan, regretting her decision to stay awake to call Pat.
But, once she had eaten breakfast – a bowl of muesli topped with blueberries and yoghurt – and drunk a cup of lemon and ginger tea, she felt a lot better and was glad she’d made the call. It hadn’t told her much but did help to explain the timing of Kerri-Ann’s message to Hannah. Cleo wondered if the girl had even been aware of who her birth father was before her mother died. Not such a girl, she corrected herself. If Stan and Gloria had been together when they were in their late teens, she would be in her late-twenties.
At odd moments during the day, thoughts of Kerri-Ann insinuated themselves between Cleo and what she was doing. But, for the most part, her mind was taken up by the dinner she’d promised to cook for Will that evening. What had possessed her to suggest it? It was one thing to decide to pursue a relationship, to get to know each other better, to see where it might lead – if anywhere. It was quite another to invite him into her home, to cook him dinner. She hadn’t cooked dinner for a man since Stan died.
Being unfamiliar with Will’s taste, Cleo had decided on a simple meal of steak and salad. The steak was already marinating in her fridge in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcester sauce, soy sauce, Dijon mustard and garlic. There was only a salad to throw together when she got home. She’d put aside a couple of slices of Ruby’s famous pear frangipani tart and planned to pick up an assortment of cheeses and crackers from the patisserie on her way home. There was no reason to worry.
But Cleo couldn’t help feeling nervous. Her anxiety about the evening hadn’t been helped by the call from Ailsa just before she left the café.
‘I hear you’re having Will to dinner tonight,’ Ailsa had said.
Cleo could hear the smug grin in her voice.
‘So?’ she asked.
‘I hope it goes well. Does this mean you and he…’ Ailsa didn’t need to finish her sentence; Cleo knew exactly what she meant.
When the plan had been mooted, the aim had been for Cleo and Will to be seen together publicly. Dinner in Cleo’s home didn’t figure into the equation. Ailsa wasn’t stupid. She’d realise dinner tonight changed everything. It was this that made Cleo shudder with the fear she was making a huge mistake.
Cleo dropped her packages on the kitchen counter and poured herself a glass of water. She really would have preferred something stronger but wanted to keep a clear head. Wine with dinner would be quite sufficient. She put the cheese and cake in the fridge and went to have a shower, glad she’d taken time to set the table before she left for work.