Staying at Daisy's(2)

By: Jill Mansell

‘My father may not have been blessed with many brilliant ideas in his lifetime,’ Daisy said fondly, ‘but twenty-five years ago he had an excellent one. He came up with Dennis.’

‘You’re kidding! Are you serious? That’s incredible!’ The Australian slapped his knee in delight. ‘I used to buy those books for my kids.’

Rocky was well away now, tap-dancing behind the bar and singing under his breath, ‘My name is Den-nis, the dashing dachshund’, because Dennis danced like Fred Astaire and Rocky liked to show off the fact that he had been to stage school.

Actually, Daisy amended, he just liked to show off. Then again, it was why she had hired him in the first place.

Dad used to make up stories for me when I was small,’ Daisy told the enthralled Australian, ‘about this effeminate dachshund. But I didn’t know what he looked like so Dad started drawing pictures of him. I took the pictures into school, told the stories to my friends and the next thing we knew, all the mothers were asking where they could get hold of these Dennis books their kids kept pestering them for. So Dad sent his stories off to a publisher and they snapped them up. Then a TV company got involved and Dennis fever took off – soft toys, games, pyjamas, the whole merchandising malarkey. All from one dear little idea. Dad sold the rights five years ago and bought this place,’ Daisy concluded. ‘So you see, we owe everything to Dennis.’

‘I used to have a Dennis the Dachshund duvet cover,’ Rocky put in cheerfully. ‘And Dennis slippers with ears on them that waggled when you walked.’

‘I had Dennis everything.’ Daisy groaned and pulled a face. ‘By the time I was nine it was embarrassing. All I cared about then was Adam Ant.’

One of the late arrivals was being persuaded to go and fetch his harmonica; he might not be able to play the piano but, Hector assured him, a mouth organ would do just as well.

‘I love this place,’ exclaimed the Australian. ‘I must go and talk to your dad.’

‘Are you all right?’ Rocky leaned across the bar and lowered his voice as the man moved away. ‘You look a bit .. . knackered.’

‘Me? I’m fine!’ Daisy realised he’d caught her off guard for a moment. What was the difference between putting on a brave front and telling a great big bare-faced lie? ‘Of course I’m fine, why wouldn’t I be?’

Rocky shrugged, reached for the silver tongs and lobbed a couple of ice cubes into a tumbler.

‘Thought you might be missing Steven. When’s he back?’

‘New Year’s Eve.’ Scooping up another handful of nuts, Daisy gave him a bright smile. Rocky wasn’t wild about Steven, she knew that, and he might even have an inkling about the events of the previous week, but there was no way in the world she was going to blurt out the whole story. She hadn’t told a soul. Not Tara, not even her own father. For now, she just had to carry on as if nothing was wrong.

‘Because if you’re feeling a bit lonely, I know just the thing to cheer you up.’ Rocky waggled a playful eyebrow as he said it, flashing her his naughtiest Robbie Williams smirk. ‘I’m young, single and available. Not to mention totally irresistible.’

Rocky was twenty-three, with a wicked smile and a peroxide crop. His favourite band was Oasis, which meant she could never fancy him in a million years.

‘It’s really kind of you to offer.’ Solemnly, Daisy patted his hand. ‘But you’re five years younger than me. You think Liam Gallagher’s a cool bloke.’ She frowned, pretending to think for a moment. ‘Oh yes, I knew there was something else. And I’m married.’

‘You don’t know what you’re missing. I’m at my sexual peak.’

I’m still married.’ God help me.

Rocky said, ‘Is that all that’s stopping you? I’m sure we can sort something out.’ Privately, he didn’t think much of marriage if what Daisy and Steven shared was a shining example. Daisy might be pretending everything was great, but you only had to see the two of them together to guess there were problems. The chief one being the fact that Steven Standish was a prize prat.

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