Sara's Promise(8)

By: Deanna Lynn Sletten

William continued to stare blankly ahead of him, his mind trying to comprehend what the doctor had said. Behind him, Sandy gasped and fell into a chair, crying softly. Sammy, too, had tears in his eyes as he sat beside his sister and placed his arms around her. But William couldn't move. All he could do was stare straight ahead, past the doctor, to the double doors where just beyond he had lost his forever.

Chapter Four

Five Years Later

William Grafton stood staring out the window of his fourth floor office in Beaverton. The photographer was late. He checked his watch again. Okay, so she was late by only two minutes, but she was late just the same. He had better things to do than wait. It only made him brood more about having to waste the time to retake the photos that were done two months before. It wasn't his fault some idiot at the magazine had lost the photos, yet he seemed to be the one paying for it.

Irritated, he turned from the window, smoothing down the sleeve of his suit jacket over his gold watch. In his navy suit, cream shirt, and pinstripe tie, he looked every bit the business man that he was, partner in his own architectural firm Grafton & Hanover for seventeen successful years. They had offices in Beaverton and Portland to handle all the business that came their way. The town of Beaverton had grown increasingly in size over the past twenty years, and firms were needed to build condos, apartment buildings, banks, shopping malls, and office buildings. But playing the part of business man was not his style. He much preferred his den at home to working in this sleek office, leaving the paperwork and appointments to his secretary and accountant to handle, and coming in only when necessary. Over the past five years, he'd pulled himself almost entirely out of the commercial end of the business, leaving the large building projects to his partner, Jeffrey Hanover, and their staff. He preferred working with individual homeowners, helping them draft the homes of their dreams.

William ran a hand through his thick, black hair that he wore slightly long. A touch of gray tipped the ends now, but he was forty-four, and that was to be expected. And if age hadn't grayed him, then his children had, especially his daughter, Sandy. That's why he'd preferred working at home all these years, so he could try to watch over them and try to fill the gaping void in their household. But it had been too big a job, bigger than he'd ever imagined.

Four minutes late. How much longer would he have to wait? He paced the floor, wondering where she was. He usually didn't mind the publicity or the time it took to show off his work. Having photos of the homes he designed appear in a publication like Architectural Home always brought prestigious clientele his way. But having to waste his time redoing something because of someone else's stupidity irked him. And her being late irritated him more. He'd give her five more minutes, and if she didn't show, he was out of here.

Annie Paxton sped her car into a parking spot in front of the Beaverton office complex. She was annoyed with herself. She was late for an appointment, and she hated that. Usually punctual and articulate, she was never late for an appointment or photo shoot. But today was different. She'd mistakenly misjudged the amount of morning traffic, had taken a wrong turn and had to go in circles to find the building. It was only five minutes, but to her it was as bad as being late by an hour.

Hurriedly, she grabbed her camera from the passenger seat and slung it around her neck. She'd need the larger camera and tripod in the trunk, too but would get those after she met up with the client. She never went anywhere without her smaller camera. It was like a part of her, like an arm or leg. It was a piece of her.

Annie grabbed her small handbag and slammed the car door shut, forcing herself to stand still a moment and take a deep breath. It was only five minutes, nothing to be upset about. Besides, she was a photographer. Weren't artsy types supposed to be a little flighty? At least, that's what most people expected. She winced at that thought, hating to be thought of that way. Taking another calming breath, she ran a hand through her shoulder length, brown hair and headed into the building.

Five minutes later, Annie stood in front of the secretary's desk in the offices of Grafton and Hanover. As the secretary announced her arrival to Mr. Grafton, Annie glanced around, surprised the offices weren't larger. From what she knew about the firm, it was one of the largest and busiest in the Portland-Beaverton area. Since William Grafton was part owner, she had expected more lavish offices.

"You may go in now, Ms. Paxton," the secretary told her with a smile. Annie thanked her and headed through the door into William Grafton's office.

William was standing behind his desk, arms crossed, staring at her as she stepped inside. For a moment, he startled her, his eyes so intense, watching her as she walked across the room to his desk. Annie frowned. He looked familiar, yet she couldn't place him. He wasn't at all what she'd expected. He was taller, younger, and dressed much nicer than she'd expected. From the look on his face, she could also see he was annoyed.

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