Home > A Family for Christmas(6)

A Family for Christmas(6)
Mona Ingram

“Excuse me, Miss LaRocque?”

Startled, Maddie needed a moment to regain her composure. The receptionist was looking at her oddly. “Mr. Drummond’s secretary just called. Something’s come up, and he’s going to be at least an hour longer, perhaps more. But he promises that he will meet with you if you’re willing to wait.”

Maddie glanced at her watch. “I appreciate that, thank you. In the meantime I have something to take care of in the building, so I’ll go do that and then come back.”

Annie appeared as she was picking up her bag, and the receptionist relayed a message from her uncle.

“Okay.” The girl seemed accustomed to waiting. She walked over to Maddie and held up her iPhone. “I Googled your friend’s fashion show.” She showed Maddie the screen. “Is that her?”

Maddie looked at the familiar face, framed by some of Lily’s most popular fabrics. “Yes, that’s Lily.”

Annie stared at the image on the screen. “She’s beautiful.”

“Yes, she is. Listen, I have some business a few floors down, but I’ll be back. See you later, okay?”

“Okay.” Annie settled in to wait.

* * *

Maddie was grateful that the Human Resources department of CCA Accounting was separate from the general offices. She had nothing against her co-workers, but there wasn’t much left to say, and she wanted to pick up her cheque with the least possible fuss.

The company had generously paid her until the end of this week plus the two weeks separation pay, as required by provincial law. It was a bit more than she had expected; she tucked the cheque into her purse and left with no hard feelings.

The waiting area was empty when she returned to the floor housing Drummond Enterprises. Maybe Chase Drummond had completed his business earlier than anticipated. Maddie went to the reception desk and waited for Marilyn to complete a call.

“Do you know where Annie is?” she asked.

The receptionist’s gaze went to the chair Annie had occupied for the past hour. “No.” She tapped a pen against her teeth as though that would jog her memory. “She went to the restroom, then came back.” She looked up. “You were still here then, weren’t you?”

Maddie nodded.

“After that, I’m not sure.” She looked around as though Annie might materialize out of thin air. “Mr. Drummond is not going to be happy about this.”

Maddie looked at the coffee table in the waiting area. “I think she’s gone out. Her magazine is gone, and she seemed attached to it.”

The receptionist reached for the phone but Maddie stalled her. “Just a moment. I think I might know where she is.”

“Really?” Marilyn turned hopeful eyes on her. “Where?”

“I think she may have gone to a fashion show over at Draper’s. We were talking about it earlier.”

The receptionist looked blank. “A fashion show?”

“Yes. Annie is fascinated with the fashion business.” Maddie thought quickly and pulled out her cell phone. “Give me a number where I can reach you. I’ll run down there now and look for her. If she’s there, I’ll call you right away.”

The receptionist adjusted her earpiece, her other hand hovering over the keypad that controlled the phones. “I guess that would be okay. It will only be a couple of minutes, right?”

Maddie nodded. “Five minutes, tops. It’s up to you of course, but I’m quite sure she’s there, and you won’t have to bother Mr. Drummond.”

“Okay then, and thanks.” She was visibly relieved. They exchanged cell phone numbers, and Maddie went back to the bank of elevators and was soon en route to the ground floor.

“David.” She stopped for a moment at the concierge desk. “Did you see Annie Drummond go out a while ago?” She paused. “Sorry, I mean Annie Campbell.”

“Sure did.” He looked down at some notes. “Fourteen minutes ago. Came out of the elevator and was out the front door quick as you please. She’s a bright little thing, that one, but I was wondering about her being alone, so I wrote down the time.”

“Did you notice which way she went?”

“To the right is my guess. She went out the set of doors to the right of the revolving door.”

“Thanks, David.” Maddie was outside and headed for the crosswalk in seconds. Fortunately, she knew where to go for the fashion show and took the escalator to the second floor.

Annie’s flame-coloured hair made her easy to spot. She had managed to find a seat at the end of the second row, and was gazing raptly at the fashions when Maddie arrived. The shows were popular but informal, and Maddie grabbed a folding chair and placed it beside the young girl.

Annie didn’t look surprised to see her. “I think Lily is next,” she whispered, her voice tense and excited. “Her clothes are second to last.”

“I’ll be right back. Hold my chair, okay?” Maddie stood up and walked away from the spectators and the music.

“Marilyn,” she said into the phone. “She’s here at Draper’s, she’s fine.”

“Thank you for doing this. I’ll have to have a talk with Mr. Drummond about my responsibilities when Annie comes to wait for him. She’s never run off before.”

Maddie thought that was an excellent idea, but didn’t comment. “Listen, Marilyn. I thought I’d take Annie for coffee when this is over.” She gave an embarrassed laugh. “Okay, the coffee is for me, but I thought we’d go to that little place next door. Annie can have hot chocolate or something like that.”

“Sounds good. Thanks again, Maddie.”

“You’re welcome.” Maddie looked back at Annie, who was watching the models like a veteran of the runway shows. “She’s really enjoying herself. I’ll see you later.”

She sat down beside Annie and watched the models parading down the runway in Lily’s clothes. As usual, Lily’s astute business sense had been right on when she decided to start manufacturing resort wear. Her designs were bold and vibrant, and it was obvious that the models enjoyed wearing them. Maddie had as much fun watching Annie’s reaction as she did admiring the outfits.

The show drew to a close about ten minutes later, and Lily came running out to see them, not much taller than Annie even in extravagantly high heels.

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