Excerpt from Silver Shadows
The too-warm air inside the trailer that housed Hadley Restoration Services' temporary headquarters had Kyra's eyelids drooping once again.
Her hand drifted from the drawing showing a wood bracket's detail. She pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, giving her fuzzy eyesight a chance to rest. If she didn't get a good night's sleep soon, she'd lose everything she'd worked toward in the past seven years. She fought the pull, but it was too strong. Resting one elbow on her drafting table, she let her head flop into her hand.
A catnap couldn't hurt. A few minutes, then she could get back to work refreshed.
She floated on cottony layers of gray. Then like quicksand, her conscious mind was sucked into a murky past she didn't understand. She looked into her own green eyes, but her reddish curls had turned to straight brown hair twisted into a high chignon. Her cream sweater and comfortable blue pants had changed into an embroidered white shirtwaist and gored black skirt. She had no idea who the man beside her was or why he glared at her. They exchanged heated words, but Kyra couldn't hear their voices. She could only stare aghast as the man hit her. Kyra gasped. The action jolted her head off her hand, waking her.
Keys clattered against Kyra's drafting table, slid down the incline and plopped into her lap.
"I'm working you too hard," George Hadley said. He sat in the chair next to Kyra's desk.
"I did it again, didn't I?" Kyra sighed and dropped her pencil in a holder before she rubbed her temples. With each circle of her fingers, she tried to erase the clinging dread that always accompanied these dreams that had plagued her since she'd arrived in Summit Station, Utah.
George nodded and smiled. His thin blond hair slipped into his face. He pushed it back. George kept his appearance meticulously groomed, but he'd let his hair grow long—because he'd been too busy covering for her over the past few weeks.
"I'm sorry. I won't let it happen again," she said.
"That's what you said yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that, too."
"I'm sorry." Kyra looked down at her hands in her lap and played absentmindedly with the keys that had dropped there. The small dog snoozing at her feet stirred. Misty propelled herself into Kyra's lap, faced forward and butted Kyra's hand to be petted. Kyra obliged.
"You need a break. After we present the Summit Station project to the Utah Historical Restoration Society tomorrow, why don't you take a vacation? Our next project doesn't start until after the New Year.
"My sister's got a house nearby." His chin jerked toward the keys in her hand. "Those are the keys."
"I didn't know you had a sister."
"She's ten years younger. We're not close." George shrugged and gave her a don't-ask-any-questions look. "I met her for dinner last week. I'd planned on visiting with her after this job, but she and her husband are spending the holidays in the Caribbean. I'd rather get home to the girls than spend a few days alone here. But you could go skiing, rest, and get whatever it is that's messing up your mind out of your system."
When Kyra didn't comment on his suggestion, George placed his elbows on the chair's arms and tented his hands. "We're two weeks behind on this project."
"We're known for our reliability. I can't let it get around we can't meet our deadlines."
Kyra played with the dog's coarse black hair. George was the combination of father/brother she hadn't had growing up. They'd met when she worked an internship for him while pursuing her degree in architecture at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
When she'd graduated, George attended the ceremony and presented her with a contract of employment. Liking George and the freedom he gave her with her work, she'd gladly accepted. She loved the visceral sensation bringing a neglected building back to life gave her. The way it made her feel alive and useful—needed. She wouldn't trade her job for the world.
But Kyra also knew the one thing George couldn't tolerate was incompetence. And in the past month, her work had fallen just short of that. It was as if her creative instinct was being sucked dry by those awful dreams.
"It's not just my reputation that's at stake. It's yours, too," George continued.
Kyra's hand stopped petting the dog, and Misty twisted around, demanding Kyra continue.
In all the years she'd known George, he'd always insisted on approving everything that went out and never let anything go without his name on it; his way of keeping integrity, he claimed. His obsession with a scrupulous reputation kept the personnel flowing through the door at regular intervals. Except for Betty, his secretary—the only person who dared talk back at George when he was being impossible—Kyra was the only person who'd lasted more than a year.
"What do you mean my reputation?"
George leaned forward, his hands still tented above his lap. A mischievous grin twisted his face, taking a decade off his fifty-odd years. "I was going to leave a big surprise under your Christmas tree." The smile disappeared, leaving George's this-is-serious look behind. "I think I need to let you mull my proposition over now."
"What kind of surprise?" Kyra'd never liked surprises, especially around Christmas. Those brightly wrapped packages were bound to house a few disappointments, and she'd never been good at hiding her emotions—which tended to lead to hurt feelings all around.
"A partnership." George sat back and waited for her reaction.
"A partnership?!" Kyra straightened on her stool, nearly bouncing Misty off her lap. She couldn't believe her ears. Misty nipped Kyra's hand, reminding her of her presence.
"I don't have a son to pass this business on to."
"But you're still young—"
George held his hand up to silence her. "My daughters don't seem to have an interest in what I do, so I doubt they care what happens to my business when I decide to retire. You love your work, and you're the only person I know that understands the importance of staying true to the past when you do a restoration. It's almost as if you can see the past, see the truth, and somehow balance that with what our clients want. That's a rare gift."
"Is something wrong? You're not sick, are you?" Her mind reeled. Having recently lost her mother to cancer, the thought of losing another loved one frightened her.
"No. I'm just thinking ahead. I've got a poor track record at keeping my employees happy. You've been loyal—more like third daughter, really—and I believe in rewarding that loyalty. I'm prepared to offer you a full partnership."
Oh-oh, here comes the but.
That was even worse than but. George never used her name unless something displeased him.
"I won't give you the partnership unless you straighten out your problem. I know your mother's death's been hard on you, but to give you half my business, I've got to be able to depend on you in any situation."
Her nightmares could certainly be classified as a problem. She'd tried to cope with them, but the more she concentrated, the worse the unwanted interludes got. The more she tried to analyze them, the more confused she got. And going without sleep wasn't the right answer either.