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16. TARYN: Home Alone

aryn assured George that of course, he had to go to LaTonya for their lesson. When he hesitated, when he said that perhaps he ought to take Beth with him, so Taryn could rest, she told him he was being ridiculous. Beth was fast asleep; he’d woken her up and dragged her out with him the night before.

Now Taryn was here, she was the child’s mother, for God’s sake. Didn’t he trust her?

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer,” she said, smiling gently, bringing her fingers to his lips. “I know I haven’t given you much reason to trust me. But things are going to be different from now on, George, really. I love you so much. You and Beth too.”

He hesitated just one more moment before enfolding her in his arms. She loved how he felt, big, tender, warm, different from any other man. If only he could be enough for her.

She curled up on the built-in sofa, leafing through a magazine, while he went out and got in the car, turned on the engine, backed out of the gravel drive, drove off into the darkness. It was so snug in the houseboat, the only sounds the lapping of the lake outside, and Beth’s quiet breath.

Taryn got up and went and stood over her daughter, gazing down. She couldn’t believe this was her child. The little girl looked nothing like her, and not much like George either. Taryn had been a tomboy, tearing around the woods with her brothers and cousins, swinging from trees, while Beth was shy and frightened, happy only when George was nearby and she had her play horses and stuffed animals, paper and crayons close at hand.

Taryn thought of kissing the girl on the cheek, but she didn’t want to risk waking her. Briefly, she considered getting into bed and going to sleep herself, but she’d been half-waiting for George to leave her alone in the place ever since she woke up. What did he have around these days?, she’d been wondering. Now that she wasn’t around here much anymore?