Peyton’s Promise: A Surprise Reunion
“As I live and breathe, could it be the fair young lassie who stole my heart while I was still in breeches? Where be your buttercream braids and toothless grin?”
Peyton almost dropped her heavy basket of treasured upholstery tools—the tailor’s chalk, rubber mallet, scissors, stapler, and so much more she’d worked so hard to obtain. She spun around searching for the owner of the familiar voice. High atop a ladder that had to be ten feet tall, a man chuckled, backlit by the morning sun shining through the window. She couldn’t identify his face or make out his features, but she knew that voice, that endearing tease in his deep Irish lilt.
“Paddy? What in heaven’s name are you doing here?” Setting the basket at her feet, she moved closer toward her long-lost chum.
She’d not seen him in nearly three years, ever since he’d taken a carpenter’s apprenticeship in Ogdensburg, New York, fifty miles north. A year later, she’d traveled twenty miles south to Watertown for her upholstery apprenticeship with Mr. and Mrs. O’Cleary. She’d heard tales of Paddy’s success as a finish carpenter, working for the famous architect, J.B. Reid. Yet she’d not been informed of his return nor that he’d be working on Calumet Island in the castle with her.
“What are you doing here, Miss Peyton Quinn?” Paddy descended the ladder and stood mere feet from her.
She wobbled back on her heels and gasped. He was much taller and handsomer than she remembered, and his shoulders had broadened. His short, well-trimmed beard appeared soft to the touch, not wiry like her father’s. When did that scrappy lad become a man?
“Peyton Pie? Aye, did you lose your tongue, my fair lass?”
He stepped closer and scooped her free hand into his, planting a kiss on it and holding it until she replied.
“I … I am bewildered at your presence, is all. No one told me you’d be here.”
Peyton’s heart raced and she swallowed hard, blinking back her surprise—and her ire at the memory of their last curt words, words that cut to the very depth of her heart. She withdrew her hand.
“Are you vexed, oh dearest of my childhood friends? I hope not, for I believe we will be working toward the same goal of preparing this fine castle for the grand affair in just two months.” He winked, sending her nerves soaring like he always did. “And it is Patrick Taylor, if you please. Paddy was a skinny, silly Irish lad who finally grew into this strapping man you now see.”
When he thumped his chest, chin high and smile wide, she giggled in spite of her ire, relaxing under his easy way she so well remembered. “Patrick, it is. Or is it Mr. Taylor, since you’re the Calumet Castle carpenter?”
“Patrick, please. We’ve too much history to plod through formalities.” He shrugged, waving toward three empty chairs perched against the wall. “Shall we? Just for a moment?”
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