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Critical Error (17)

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“You’re quick!  As a matter of fact, I am a visitor, from Port Hardy, and I can’t resist a jewelry store.  The displays are so beautifully done.”

“And expensive.”

“And expensive,” she agreed.  “However, I didn’t say I was buying, just looking.”

“Well, ‘just looking’, I’d like to introduce myself because I’m sure you’ve told your children, never talk to strangers, and . . .”

“And you think the same advice should apply to adults?”

“Yes, if you’re going to talk to anyone but me, that is.”

“Either way, I was just leaving.”

“Just leaving?  I guess I’d better hurry the introductions along then.  I’m Paul.  Paul Montgomery.”

“Why, hello, Paul.”  Holding out a hand, she added, “Eilea Martin.”

“Pleasure bumping into you.”

“Pleasure!” She groaned.

“I’m serious.  To prove it, how about letting me buy you a cup of coffee?”

“Actually, I’m meeting the kids in about five minutes.  You’re welcome to join us.”

“Ohh, the clan test!”

“The what?”

“See if you can scare the guy off by introducing the clan, plan?”

“Oh, the ‘clan plan’.  Yes, right.  Well, too late, here comes the clan now.”

When the group met up outside the restaurant, Eilea teased, “Where are all the packages, I figured by now you would have bought the store out.”

“Hi, mom.  I saw an outfit that I like but I’m not sure about it.  I thought I’d run back and take another look after we eat.”

Eyeing the man standing beside her mother, she gave him the once over as a puzzled look crossed her expressive face.

Leaning close so that only Eilea could hear, he whispered, “The clan test.”  Although Eilea tried valiantly, a bubble of laughter escaped anyway.

“Paul, I’d like to introduce you to ‘the clan'”.  Pointing to her daughter and motioning in a counter-clockwise direction, she introduced the teens, one by one. “My daughter Christina, my son Andrew, adopted daughter Theresa and on the other, Brandon and Cliff.”

“Everyone, meet Paul Montgomery.”

A chorus of “hi” and “hello” followed.

Eilea looked at the group, “So, you guys ready for lunch?”

“Yes, I’m starved,” Brandon spoke for the group as all heads nodded in agreement.

“You guys go ahead, I’ll meet you in a couple of minutes.  I have one stop to make before I get there.”

“Meet you in the restaurant, mom.”  Christina stared hard at the stranger before leaving, while Andrew turned and walked away without a word.

“Perr-haps I should leave you to your visiting.  I’d say the reception is decidedly chilly.”

“You don’t look like the type to let a little chill slow you down.”

“I’m not.  I just wondered how much heat you can take because I wouldn’t doubt for a minute that they are going to grill you when they get a chance.”

“If they do, I can hold my own.”  Eilea stopped at a kiosk selling key chains and bought one for Theresa, the collector.

When they reached the restaurant, Paul held the door for her.

Noticing the teens sitting in a corner across the room, he pointed them out to Eilea and they went to join the kids.  In order to make room for everyone, they had taken two tables and pushed them together.  “Thanks, guys.”

An older petite red-head brought menus.  “Coffee, anyone?”

Eilea and Paul nodded.  While pouring coffee for the adults, she continued, “Do you ladies and gents want pop or milkshakes?”  Following a quick conference, Brandon spoke up, “Four cokes and one root beer please.”

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