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"And whenever you want it," Adam continued, "you have a lot of vacation time coming. You keep turning it down, so I thought I'd remind you of it once more."

"I'm in no hurry to leave," Kevin assured him.

"Why? Don't you have a life outside this job?" wondered Charlie, only half joking.

"I have good friends here," he replied with a nod. "As I said, I'll be more than happy to drive you into Twin Yucca today, Mrs. Overholt."

"Go ahead and take him up on it, Vera," chuckled Adam. "I think I can manage to fend off Charlie's admirers for a few hours."

"Very funny," smiled Charlie. "Do you want some help making up a grocery list, Grandma? I can spare a few minutes if you need me."

"That's not necessary," smiled Vera, "I can manage it by myself. And thank you, Kevin. I'll make sure you get an extra large slice of Chuck's birthday cake."

Kevin smiled warmly and slipped back into his professional composure of silence and guarded watchfulness. Adam wasn't sure if he did this out of habit, or if it was on purpose. Whatever the reason, Adam regarded Kevin as one of Charlie's guardian angels. And, many times, Kevin did his best to look after Adam, as well. Somewhere along the way, Kevin had become more than a member of Wallace Shipley's entourage: he was a member of this family. Even if Kevin refused to let his guard down and admit it out loud, Adam knew he felt a strong bond with the people he saw every day.

By the time Adam and Charlie stepped outside, the usual parking lot of trucks and vehicles had already assembled, and Beppe was busy giving orders to the newcomers. Mike looked up with a huge smile when he saw his uncle coming to meet him.

After hugging his nephew, Adam listened while Beppe discussed the work to be done with Hiram. Hiram was a Master Plumber and a reliable individual to have around when there was a difficult job to be done. He had a strong work ethic, and was a good teacher-- something Adam had kept in mind when he chose Hiram to take his place at Clark Plumbing Service and Supply. If Mike was ever going to take over the family business one day, he would need a dependable teacher, and Hiram was that man.

"We have a lot of pipe to lay," Beppe explained to the plumbers. "We're starting with the work that's out in the open, so if it rains, the remaining work will be under a roof."

"How IS the roof coming?" inquired Adam.

"It's nearly done," grinned Beppe, turning to look at the large estate and glowing with satisfaction. "After the plumbing is finished, we pour the concrete for the floors."

"I have to admit, this place is beginning to look impressive, Uncle Adam." Mike looked about the estate and shook his head in wonderment. The runway was drying beneath the desert sun, while construction was nearly complete with the great metal hanger that would house his uncle's private jet. Tall, slender palm trees stood in the front yard, while others towered above the row of bungalows in back of the main house.

"Now that you mention it," chuckled Adam, "things are starting to take shape around here, aren't they! The oleander hedge Charlie wanted, still isn't in yet, but Villa Rosa is beginning to come together!"

"We have one of the largest crews I've ever hired for a private residence," informed Beppe. "You usually don't see this many workers unless it's a commercial project."
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