Home > A Family for Christmas(10)

A Family for Christmas(10)
Mona Ingram

He nodded vigorously. “I know you could. All I’d have to do is mention it at the Oilmen’s Club, and you’d have more business than you could handle.”

The waiter placed a plate of spaghetti carbonara in front of her, but the luscious smell barely registered. “Would you really do that?”

“Of course he would!” Annie bounced excitedly in her seat. “Wouldn’t you, Uncle Chase?”

“Thank you, Franco.” He acknowledged the server, checked Annie’s plate, and then turned back to Maddie. “I think you have a fan.” He looked affectionately at his niece.

“We’re a gang,” Annie said proudly. “We’re a gang of three.”

Chase paused, his glass halfway to his mouth. “What is this, West Side Story?”

Maddie and Annie looked at each other and laughed out loud.

“What?” Chase raised an eyebrow. “What did I say?”

“That’s what Lily said when we told her about the gang. Wait ‘til I tell her you said the same thing.” Annie expertly twirled her spaghetti. “You’ll like her, Uncle Chase. Too bad she had to leave.”

Chase flushed; Maddie suspected that wasn’t something that happened very often. “Yes, too bad.” He turned back to Maddie. “There will be some paperwork to complete, but that sounds fine. When do you want to set up?”

“Yesterday.” She held his gaze. “Thank you, Chase. I appreciate this.”

“You’re welcome.” He cut into his veal. “Marilyn will make sure you get to see the right people, and they will co-ordinate with the building superintendent regarding access.”

Maddie thought of the man she’d seen earlier and her heart did a little flip flop in her chest. “Right,” she said.

“Get some business cards printed up and a few colourful flyers. Between me and my top executives, we belong to just about every men’s club in town. I play handball several days a week, and there’s a bulletin board in there, as well as at the gyms we frequent.” He seemed to be enjoying himself. “This is just like starting out all over again, but you don’t have much time to get the word out, so you’ll need all the help you can get.”

Maddie put down her fork. “At the risk of sounding blunt, why are you helping me? I wasn’t even sure you’d let me have the space, let alone help me out.”

His expression softened. “Two reasons. First of all, Annie likes you and she’s an excellent judge of character.”

Annie’s head bobbed up and down, her mouth full of spaghetti.

“And secondly, because David speaks highly of you. I spoke to him before I came over here today, and he told me you’re one of the few people who ever bothered to learn his name, and that you say hello to him every day.” He looked at her steadily. “I like that.”

“Thank you.”

Annie wiped her mouth with her napkin. “This is so cool. I’ll get to see you all the time.”

“Yes, you will.” Maddie grinned at the youngster, but her mind was spinning. There was so much to do; it was almost overwhelming.

“What will you do when the Christmas season is over?” Chase poured some more sparkling water.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead, but I’ll find something.” She finished the last of her spaghetti. “Now isn’t a good time to be looking for a new job anyway what with the holidays and all.”

“I’d have to agree with you there.” He toyed with his fork, then set it deliberately on his plate.

“Your friend, Lily. What type of work does she do?”

Annie couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “She’s a clothes designer! I saw some of her designs at a fashion show.”

Chase looked from his niece to Maddie, a puzzled frown on his face.

“There was a fashion show at Draper’s,” volunteered Maddie. “Annie and I had been talking about it, and I told her that my friend was going to be there. Actually, she owns a very successful silk screening studio and she’s recently expanded into fashion.”

“And you know her well?” Colour crept up his neck again.

“We’re roommates. We went to high school together and then we both went on to study at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Lily took Applied Arts. I didn’t know what interested me so I did what everyone does in that case. I was going for my BA.”

“And you ended up in accounting?”

“I’m putting that down to temporary insanity.” Maddie shrugged her shoulders. “It’s a fine occupation. After all, we all need accountants, but I didn’t realize how much I disliked it until yesterday.”

He chuckled and looked up at their server, who was clearing the plates. “Dessert anyone? Or coffee?” He looked from Annie to Maddie.

“Not for me, thanks,” said Maddie. “I don’t usually eat this much at lunch.”

“Me neither.” Annie had managed to finish her whole meal. “But thank you.”

“The cheque please, Franco.” Chase leaned across and placed his hand on Annie’s. “So you’ll take care of my girl when it’s time for her to visit Lily’s studio?”

Maddie had been wondering when he’d bring Lily back into the conversation. “Yes, I will.” She stopped to think. “I’m going to be quite busy for the next little while. Would it be okay if Lily picks up Annie?”

Chase’s eyes danced. “Well, I don’t know...”

“Uncle Chase!” Annie knew her uncle well.

“Yes, of course.” He put on a serious face. “But you have to give me advance warning, young lady. None of this running off without telling anyone.”

Annie nodded soberly. “Yes, Uncle Chase.”

Maddie had been right. Not much got past Chase Drummond.

Chapter Six

Maddie was busy making lists when Lily got home from work. She kicked off her shoes, snagged a bottle of water from the fridge and climbed up on a stool across from Maddie. They’d often joked about needing a step stool, but Lily always managed.

“I’m tired,” she said, unscrewing the top and taking a long drink. “It’s been a long day.” She glanced at Maddie’s lists. “I see you got the place.”

“Yes.” Maddie could tell there was something wrong, but she knew Lily well enough not to push. She shuffled the papers and tried to push down her mounting panic at the amount of work to be done. “I may have bitten off more than I can chew this time.”

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