Stay with Me Forever. Farrah Rochon

Stay with Me Forever - Farrah Rochon

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made enough to make anyone rich.

      Barely scraping by had been a way of life for her mother for far too long. She’d sacrificed everything—food in her belly, clothes on her back, countless hours of sleep—all to make sure Paxton had an easier road than the one she’d traveled.

      One could argue that Paxton had sacrificed just as much as her mother had. After all, she’d spent the better part of her adolescence working side by side with Belinda in this very bar. They were a team, always had been. But the few hours she spent helping out in the evenings and weekend here at Harlon’s was nothing compared with the time and hard work Belinda had put in day after day, year after year.

      That she could now afford to properly thank her mother for all she’d given up for her filled Paxton’s chest with pride.

      Which was why she refused to engage in any discussion of what all of this was costing her. As a project manager for one of the largest engineering firms in the Gulf South, she’d managed to build a nice nest egg in a relatively short amount of time. Sure, she’d emptied it in order to buy this place and renovate it, but Paxton had a set of career goals in front of her; she was confident she would be able to replenish her savings in a matter of a few short years. Especially if things went as she’d planned them out in her head.

      “With all the money you’ve put into this place, you’ll have to sell a lot of beer and tater skins to break even,” Harlon remarked as the final television was carted through the door.

      “Could we please close this subject?” Paxton said. “We still have a lot to do before the grand opening, and I’ve got to be at the Gauthier Law Firm early in the morning.”

      “What you got going on over there?” Harlon asked. “You need Matt Gauthier to get you out of a bind?”

      Paxton shook her head. “Matt has been kind enough to let us use the extra conference room as a temporary office for the flood protection project I’m working on. I’m lucky that he had some available space.”

      At least Paxton thought she was lucky, until this past Thursday when she’d discovered that the state engineer who’d been assigned to the project had abruptly left the Army Corps of Engineer Civil Works department. He’d been replaced by another civil engineer. Sawyer Robertson.

      The muscles in her belly tightened just at the thought of his damn name.

      Why, why, why did it have to be Sawyer?

      Although it didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why, of all the civil engineers on the state’s payroll, Sawyer would be the one chosen to take over for the departing engineer. It was the same reason the management team at Bolt-Myer had tasked her with this project. They were both familiar with the area. Like her, Sawyer had grown up in Gauthier. He knew the lay of the land, and, even more importantly, he knew the people. The people in Gauthier could trust that both she and Sawyer would give their all to this project.

      Still, if given the option, would she trade her car instead of working with Sawyer? Heck yes, she would.

      She’d tried to convince herself that it wasn’t a big deal, but the thought of facing Sawyer tomorrow had her stomach in knots. She hated it, but Paxton couldn’t deny it. She was human, after all. She had an exceedingly acceptable reason for why just the thought of working with Sawyer made her nervous and uncomfortable and ready to bury her head in the sand and not come out until this project was over.

      But she couldn’t do that, either.

      Nor could she walk into that office tomorrow with even a hint of trepidation or intimidation at seeing Sawyer Robertson for the first time in three years. She’d made her bed where he was concerned—literally. And now it was time to lay in it.

      No. No. No! There would be no lying in bed with Sawyer. It was bad enough they had to share the same work space for the next four weeks. She didn’t want to be anywhere near a bed when Sawyer was around.

      Okay, so that was a lie, but she was prepared to tell herself whatever was necessary to get through these next four weeks with her sanity intact.

      Four weeks! Good God, how would she survive being confined to a tiny conference room with that man for an entire month?

      She clutched her stomach with one hand in an attempt to combat the anxiety rioting through her belly. She’d faced some tough challenges in her thirty-seven years, but Paxton had a feeling this would be one of the toughest yet.

      * * *

      “Fine, you win.”

      Sawyer Robertson tossed the package of fancy adhesive strips on the table and looked around for some good old-fashioned Scotch tape. Detesting the thought of admitting defeat, he quickly picked up the adhesive strips again, his fingers aching from the strain of twisting the heavy cardboard and plastic back and forth.

      He dropped his head back and sighed. “Scissors, you idiot.”

      Shaking his head at his own stupidity, he walked out of the Gauthier Law Firm’s small conference room and over to office manager Carmen Mitchell’s desk.

      “Hey, Carmen, can I borrow a pair of scissors?” Sawyer asked. “I swear they don’t want you to get into this thing.”

      “Give me that,” Carmen said. She plucked the package from his hands, poked a hole in the cardboard with a letter opener and sliced it open, then handed it to him.

      She snorted, shaking her head. “And to think you were considered one of the smart ones.”

      Sawyer couldn’t help but laugh. He’d attended Gauthier High School with the law practice’s longtime secretary. Nice to see she was as smart-mouthed as ever.

      “Trust me. Advanced calculus is ten times easier than opening this package,” Sawyer said.

      “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Carmen waved him off. She motioned to the small table in the corner that held a coffeepot. “There’s fresh coffee over there, but it’s decaf.”

      “In other words, there’s fresh brown water over there.”

      “You sound like Matt,” she said. “And just like I tell him, you can buy one of those nice single-serve coffee machines with the individual coffee pods, or you drink what I make.”

      “Or I can just walk across the street to the Jazzy Bean for my caffeine fix,” Sawyer said.

      “That, too. But I still want the fancy coffeemaker.” She looked up from her computer and nodded in the direction of the conference room. “You need any help setting up in there?”

      “No, thanks. I’ve got it from here.” Sawyer turned back toward the conference room but then pivoted on his heel. “Hey, Carmen. The project manager should have been here already. Can you point him to the conference room whenever he gets in?”

      “Sure, but you know the project manager is—” The phone rang. Carmen held up a finger. “Gauthier Law Firm.”

      Sawyer held up the pack of adhesive strips and mouthed, “Thanks again,” before returning to the conference room and closing the door behind him so that he wouldn’t disturb Carmen any more than he already had this morning.

      The room was on the smallish side. An eight-foot well-worn, but polished, wooden table took up a vast majority of the space. There were two makeshift desks on either side of the room—small folding tables, each with a table lamp and a chair. A two-drawer filing cabinet stood next to the table on the opposite end of the room from the one he’d chosen. His desk sat underneath a window overlooking Heritage Park.

      It was one of the perks of being the first to arrive. If P. Jones wanted a say in which desk he would work at for the next four weeks, he should have shown up for work on time.

      Someone, probably Carmen, had placed a yellow legal pad, a pack of pens and a box of paper clips on each desk. All in all it was pretty bare-bones, but that wouldn’t last for long. If the past projects he’d worked on were any indication, by the end of the week every surface

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