Stay with Me Forever. Farrah Rochon

Stay with Me Forever - Farrah Rochon

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Paxton hadn’t felt the same way. She’d slipped out of his bed in the wee hours of the morning, and when Sawyer had finally caught up to her days later, she’d apologized to him.

      Apologized, for goodness’ sake.

      He could still see the regret in her eyes as she told him that they shouldn’t have slept together. She then avoided him like he was something filthy on the bottom of her shoe.

      And now, three years later, she didn’t even want to discuss it.


      Oh, they were going to discuss that night, along with her disappearing act that followed the morning after. Sawyer would give her a day, maybe two, but there was no way in hell he could work this closely with her for the next month with all these questions still lingering between them. He deserved some answers, and he planned to get them sooner rather than later.

      They worked in their separate corners for most of the morning, staying out of each other’s way. Sawyer was encouraged by the fact that once he made the concerted effort to focus, he was able to put thoughts of her out of his head and actually pay attention to the work in front of him.

      His stomach’s low growl reminded him that they had yet to stop for lunch. He looked down at his watch, surprised to see that it was nearly one o’clock. Just as he turned to ask Paxton what she planned to do for lunch, there was a knock at the door. Carmen poked her head in.

      “Hey, guys, not sure if you ate already, but Matt’s meeting with the parish council just ended and there are leftover sandwiches, potato salad and sweet tea from Catering by Kiera if you want any.”

      “That sounds perfect,” Paxton said. “I didn’t have time to pack a lunch this morning.” She turned to him and pointed a finger. “No comments from you.”

      Sawyer held his hands up. “I didn’t say anything, Queen Tardy.”

      “Queen of the Tardy Slip,” Carmen said with a laugh. “I remember that!”

      Paxton rolled her eyes at them both. Who knew it would be so much fun to tease her?

      Carmen returned a minute later with a small platter of sandwiches on croissants, a pint of potato salad, two bags of chips and a half-gallon jug of tea, along with paper plates, forks and plastic cups. She set it all in the center of the still-empty conference table and backed out of the room.

      Paxton took a seat at the table. “Do you mind this being a working lunch?” she asked him. “Jeffery Melber, the lead engineer on the project, just sent me an updated material’s list. We can go over it while we eat.”

      “That’s fine,” Sawyer said. “I’d made some changes of my own to the old one. Let me print you out a copy, and we can get to work.”

      Ten minutes later, Sawyer was positive that she was going to demand a new engineer be put on this job.

      “You cannot be serious about this line item,” Paxton said, pointing to the titanium valves he’d added to the list, replacing the fortified aluminum valves that had been suggested by Bolt-Myer.

      “The titanium valves are of much better quality.”

      “They’re thirty thousand dollars each,” she said. Her arched eyebrows formed perfect peaks over her wide eyes. “That’s four times as much as we budgeted.”

      “But they’ll last much longer than the aluminum valves. It may be more money up front, but we can make the case to get the better valves because of what it will save in the long run. You’ll have to replace all of those aluminum valves in thirty years. The titanium can last for twice as long with proper maintenance.”

      “It’s not going to happen, Sawyer. The fortified aluminum has been through rigorous testing. They exceed the state regulations.”

      “These are better.” He stabbed the materials list with his finger. He refused to budge on this. “Look, Paxton, I’ve seen what happens when corners are cut to save a few dollars here and there. It turns out costing more in the long run. Why not just build it with the best now and avoid headaches down the road? Not just headaches, but it could prevent something catastrophic from happening.”

      “Now you’re just fearmongering,” she said. “The budget does not have room to spend over a million dollars just on valves.” She dusted the flaky crumbs of her croissant from her fingers and pressed a napkin to the sides of her mouth. “I understand that someone like you isn’t used to worrying about pesky little things like staying within budget, but for those of us in the real world it is a necessity.”

      That was a cheap shot, and it hit its mark.

      Sawyer tossed the pen on the table and sat back in his seat. He folded his hands over his chest and studied her. “So you’re going to go there? Really?”

      “The truth isn’t always comfortable to hear, but it doesn’t make it any less true.” Paxton said. She straightened her slim shoulders, lifting her chin slightly as she stared him down. “There is no blank check for this project. I was given a specific budget, and I intend to adhere to it, which means you will have to work within it, too, as hard as that may be for someone like you.”

      Sawyer had not imagined the sneer in her voice when she said “someone like you.”

      It didn’t take a degree in rocket science to uncover the true meaning behind her words or the tone in which she’d spoken. Paxton Jones resented that he had been a rich kid; she always had. As if it was his fault that his father owned the lumber mill that employed a good number of the laborers in town.

      The fact that she grew up in Landreaux, one of the poorest areas of Gauthier, did not help the situation. Differences in status or class had never been a huge issue in this town, mainly because other than his family and the Gauthiers themselves, most of its residents were hardworking, lower-middle-class folks. There were those who fell below the poverty line, but instead of deriding them, the people here quietly did what they could to help.

      Paxton, however, had never accepted help easily. Neither had her mother, even though Belinda Jones had swallowed her pride a time or two when things had become too much for her to handle. Sawyer was positive that Ms. Jones had never told her daughter about the instances when she had availed herself of the financial assistance the Cheryl Ann Robertson Foundation, which his father had set up in his mother’s memory years ago, supplied to needy families in Gauthier. Belinda Jones was too proud.

      Like mother, like daughter.

      As far as Sawyer was concerned, when it came to this project, Paxton could choke on her resentment. Her hang-ups about his money didn’t make a lick of difference to him. Making sure this flood protection system was the very best it could be was more important than worrying about the chip on her shoulder.

      “I’ve worked in this field for a long time,” Sawyer said, trying like hell to keep the resentment out of his voice. “I understand budgets. I also understand what happens when people allow budgets to compromise good design.”

      “Forget the titanium valves,” Paxton said, slicing the tip of her red pen through the line item. “I’ll give you these,” she said, pointing to the alternative barrier reinforcement he’d suggested. “But keep in mind if we choose to stick with this design, we’re going to have to cut corners somewhere else.”

      “Stop taking such a hard line,” Sawyer said. “Budgets get blown all the time. The last three projects I worked on for the state all were over budget by at least 30 percent. The extra money is already figured into the state’s budget, because they know the projects will go over.”

      “Not on my projects,” she said. “I don’t know how you state boys operate, but one of the things that makes me a good project manager with Bolt-Myer is my accuracy for hitting my budgets and my completion date targets. This project in Gauthier will be no different.”

      “You’re determined to make this difficult, aren’t you? Are you doing this just to spite me?”

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