Family Ties by: Jade
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The only thing that scared him more than girlfriends who wanted to get serious was his fear of babies. Which seemed fairly ridiculous to his sister, who was trying to coax him into holding her newborn.
"You're going to regret this when I drop her," he said, gritting his teeth as she carefully transferred the baby into his arms. "You know that this is why I stayed away until the boys were old enough to pick themselves off the floor, right?"
Clearly ignoring his protest, she said, "Just support her head."
The little one yawned and wrapped her tiny fist around his finger. Apprehension turned to rapture.
Ashley noted the expression on his face. "All you have to do is find the right girl, you know."
"What's that?" he asked distractedly.
"Step one to starting a family."
He handed the baby back to his sister. "You of all people should know how tough it is to be a parent and I'm definitely not ready for that."
She gave him a long, thoughtful look.
"Mom wants to know if you'll go home for Christmas."
He released a sigh. "Somehow, I knew this was coming."
"You haven't spoken to them in ages."
"I just called Mom last week," he said defensively.
"The only person you spoke to was the machine."
"Yeah, so I left a message. That is what it's for."
"Pacey," she chided.
"I hate it when you use that tone."
"Then stop evading the issue."
He threw his hands up in the air. "Why do we always have to talk about this?"
She leaned over to put the baby back into its hospital cot before continuing. "Because Mom and Dad keep asking me questions about you and I'm tired of being the go-between."
He kneaded his temples. "I'm sorry. I'll call them later, okay?"
They waited for each other to speak but when neither of them did, he cocked an eyebrow.
"This is usually the part where you change the subject," she explained her silence. "I'm waiting."
Pacey kept his wry smile from showing. He had to give his sister credit.
"So, have you and Nick thought up a name for the baby yet?"
"We're thinking of Hannah Marie Satchell. Hannah was Nick's grandmother's name."
"Hannah," he repeated. "Sounds good to me." He walked over to the cart and touched the baby's cheek lightly. "Hey, Hannah. You're going to grow up so beautiful, you'll have boys lining up on your doorstep to take you to the prom."
"Tell that to her protective father," Ashley joked.
"I take it back. Before any of them gets to take you out, they'll have to go through your protective uncle, as well as your father."
His sister rolled her eyes and shook her head but she couldn't keep the smile from spreading across her face. As she watched her brother make faces to entertain her daughter, she was reminded by something her mother had once mentioned.
"Didn't you use to baby-sit for the Potters?"
His hand stopped in mid-air. The change in his stance didn't escape her notice and she straightened up in curiosity.
"It was just a couple of times," he finally said.
Ashley crinkled her face in confusion but this time, she didn't push for answers. She read her brother well and this subject was a touchy one, although she couldn't quite begin to understand why. Pacey never talked about his high school years. As she had anticipated, he did what was most instinctive to him.
"It's late. I'd better go."
"Dr. Davenport, you ready to go?"
He looked back at the cheerful face that had popped round the half-drawn curtain, behind which he was treating a patient.
He glanced at his watch. "You're going to hate me."
"I promised to cover for Evans until he got here. He had to pick his kid up from a Little League game. Forty-five minutes the most."
She started to move toward the elevators even before he had finished his sentence.
"He promised," he called out.
"I'll wait for you in the cafeteria," she said, without looking back.
Greg returned reluctantly to his patient. He would have to beg for forgiveness later, like he always did. And she'd forgive him, like she always did.
"Argh," he muttered impatiently as he pressed the button again. "What is it with elevators when you need them?" He pushed the door to the stairs, ready to jog down eight floors when one of them lighted up at 8 and sounded.
"Hold it please!"
She was considering taking the stairs when one of the elevators opened. She quickly stepped around the nurses who were pushing a bed out and managed to squeeze past them before the doors closed hurriedly to continue on its way.
He hadn't intended to stop at the second floor but as he caught sight of the signs for the restrooms and the telephones, he remembered his earlier promise to his sister. He exited before he could change his mind.
But that was exactly what happened halfway through the cafeteria. He retreated to the stairway around the corner from the vending machines for his escape.
"Hey Joey, waiting for Greg again?"
"What else?" She slotted the coins into the machine and made her choice of coffee with her knuckle. "How have you been?"
"Pretty much the same."
Joey took her cup of coffee out from the machine and regarded Diane Jenkins, a colleague of Greg's. "But married, right?" she teased.
Diane grinned and showed off her left hand.
"That's a beautiful ring."
"It can't compare to this beauty," Diane said in return as she glimpsed the sparkle from Joey's hand and brought it closer to her face for a look. "This would have cost my husband his entire life savings." The ring wasn't large, for she hated to attract unnecessary attention to herself but the twenty-four-carat gold band was delicately set with several tiny diamonds surrounding a larger one in the center.
She laughed and took a sip of her coffee.
"When's the big day?"
She paused at the question. "We haven't exactly decided. In the spring, maybe."
He tossed his outer coat over the chair as he entered his sponsored hotel room. Taking off his jacket and then dumping it on the bed, he loosened his tie as he went to pour himself a glass of water. He took a gulp and rested his hip against the table while he watched the telephone.
"Damn it," he mumbled. He walked over and sat down on the bed. Putting down the glass, he reached for the receiver and dialed for an outside line, then punched in more numbers and waited for the connection.
It was picked up on the third ring.
He kept silent.
"Hello?" came the voice again.
She let out a cry of delighted surprise. "Hi honey, I'm glad you called."
"He's good. He should be home any minute now."
"Will you be coming home for Christmas? We've missed you the last two years."
"I don't know yet, Mom. I'll have to wait to see if I get this job and it'll go from there."
"Ashley told me about it. How did the interview go?"
"Not bad. I wouldn't mind being in New York, with Lee and the kids close by."
"I really hope you can make it."
"I'll try," he said. "I'll call again soon, okay?"
"I love you."
"Love you too. Bye."
He slowly replaced the receiver and distractedly massaged the muscles in his neck.
His parents had told him what he wanted to know and after that day, neither of them ever spoke of it again. He wasn't out to punish them as they probably thought sometimes. It was just a constant struggle for him to try to remember that the truth didn't have to change things between them.
"As you all know, Gary Brandan would prove an extremely important client if he decides that our firm should design the first of his new chain of restaurants in New York." David Jameson leaned closer forward, hands resting on the conference table in order to emphasize his point. "I want my best people on this job and you'll have to come up with a draft by Friday next week."
There were waves of protest.
"This is not negotiable. We don't want to lose this contract to our rivals."
"But we've got the Spencer and GN works going on. We can't handle three projects in such a rush," one of the ten employees of Easton International brought up.
"The thing now is to humor the client and to sell the idea across. Everyone in the business knows that Brandan doesn't care for what looks impressive on paper and as long as he likes what he hears, we're in." Jameson continued to speak without taking a breath. "Pacey, I want you to head the project, with Barry and Jessie on your team.
The newest member of the firm raised his eyebrow in surprise, at being given a relatively huge responsibility in just his second week of work. He perused the other people in the room and asked cautiously, "Are you sure you'd rather not give it to someone else?"
"I hired you based on your performance. If what I've heard about your work in Seattle is accurate, this shouldn't be a problem for you," Jameson directed at him. He pointedly regarded his staff as he added, "I've made a decision. It's final."
No one said a word.
"All right, if there are no more questions, the meeting is over."
Chairs backed out on their wheels across the carpeted floor and people hurried back to their work to meet their deadlines. In this industry, there was little time to waste.
"Pacey, you stay. Barry and Jessie too."
After the last person had left the room and the door was closed behind him, Jameson began to fill them in on their new client and his plans.
After dinner, they were invited to a club to have a couple of drinks as Pacey went on to explain the ideas he had been poring over the last eight days.
Jessie leaned toward him. "I told my husband this wouldn't take too long," she whispered, indicating her watch.
Pacey looked at his own and noted the time. "You go ahead. Barry and I will handle it."
'Thanks," she said gratefully. Turning to their client and his associate, she excused herself. "Gentlemen, thank you for a wonderful time but I really have to be on my way. My husband and my son are waiting for me at home." She began to stand up.
"Oh, of course. How thoughtless of us." Gary Brandan, a distinguished-looking man in his early sixties, with a full head of gray hair stood up quickly to take her hand. "Thank you for coming tonight, Mrs. Lang."
"It was my pleasure, Mr. Brandan."
After Jessie had left, Brandan turned to Pacey and patted him enthusiastically on his shoulder. "I'm impressed with your ideas, Pacey. My acquaintances in Seattle have recommended you highly. They like your fresh and innovative approach to architecture."
"Some people say I'm a rebel but thank you," he replied sincerely.
"Change is good. You've come a long way for- how old are you?"
"Thirty. God, I remember when I was thirty." He shook his head and smiled nostalgically. "You married?"
Pacey shook his head.
"No one to share your success with? That's a pity."
"I'm sure she'll come along soon," he said in his best convincing tone, eager to bring the topic of conversation back to its original track.
"That's good." Brandan returned from reminiscing into reality. "Well, I shouldn't keep you in suspense. I've decided to give Easton International the go-ahead."
Pacey and Barry smiled in unison. The former reached for the elderly man's handshake. "Thank you so much, Mr. Brandan."
"Call me Gary."
"You're not going to regret it, Gary."
"But there's one condition."
"And that would be?"
"I already have an interior designer in mind. She's worked on another one of my projects before and I like what she does. I want the two of you to collaborate on this one."
"Our partner firm-" Barry started to say.
"I will not approve of anyone else," Brandan interrupted calmly.
Pacey was silent for a moment and then he nodded. "I'm sure we'll manage to work this out," he said.
"Good, I'll arrange for her to meet you once construction gets underway."
"Did you notice how much he insisted on having his way about that interior designer?"
"Maybe she's his mistress."
"Don't let your imagination run wild. Brandan recognizes good work, that's all."
"Yeah, probably," Barry said skeptically. He lifted his arm to flag a cab. "By the way, great work Pacey. I couldn't have asked for a better teacher to learn from."
"Glad you think so."
"The client actually likes you. I think that's great." He got into his cab. "See you Monday."
Pacey lifted his hand in a gesture of farewell as the car drove away from the curb.
Whilst everyone seemed to be rushing to meet someone, he really had nowhere else to go. Tightening his coat around the collar with his fingers, he started to walk in the direction of the wind that was gaining in ferocity.
She was juggling her briefcase and a plastic cup of café latte and had just exited the elevator when she was cornered by her assistant, Grace.
"Joey, Karen wants to see you. I think it's good news," she said excitedly.
"Easy," Joey replied as she nearly dropped her cup when Grace grabbed her arm.
"I'll take your briefcase. You go on in." Joey wasn't given much of a chance to object as the leather bag was taken from her and she was practically shoved toward the office of her boss.
She took a sip of her coffee and wondered why Karen wanted to see her. She had just got back from Connecticut over the weekend to attend the opening of a friend's new store and hadn't had time to fill herself in on any office gossip. But Grace was usually right and good news couldn't be bad.
"You wanted to see me, Karen?"
"Come on in and close the door."
Joey sat herself down and waited for the former to speak.
"I received a call from Gary Brandan's secretary this morning."
She paused in the middle of bringing her coffee to her lips. "And?" she pressed on.
Karen grinned. "Girl, you must have made some impression. He wants to offer you another job, designing a chain of restaurants."
Joey put her cup down and stood up. "You're kidding, right?"
Her boss shook her head. "You'll probably start in late January."
She started to smile and then it turned into a laugh. "Ahhhhh!" They both screamed as she ran to hug Karen.
To be continued…
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