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"Charlie-girl, keep hoping."

"Why?" she asked. Charlie was immediately sorry for speaking her question out loud, for Adam's eyes began to well with tears.

"Because," he answered in a struggling voice, "I'm praying for a miracle."

"Oh, Adam." Her words were soft and mournful, and Adam could see it hurt her to know that his hopes were set so impossibly high.

"I don't expect you to share my hope," he begged, "but I don't want you to give up on the future. Please, don't give up." When she remained silent, Adam tilted her chin back so he could look into her face.

"I won't," she murmured. "Not until it's time."

Charlie could hear Adam inhale, as if he were about to make her promise more. Instead, he slowly closed his mouth and kissed the tip of her nose.

"Okay, Charlie," he softly breathed, "I won't argue. That promise will be enough... for now."

As his words sounded in Charlie's ears, someone knocked on the front door and Beppe ventured into the music room.

"In here," Adam called out, as the general contractor made his way to the adjoining living space.

"I just got back and found out what happened," sighed Beppe, tucking a clipboard under his overweight arm. "I apologize for Lyle's conduct. Do you need someone to take you to the emergency room?"

At this suggestion, Charlie sat up from her cozy embrace with Adam and looked at him apprehensively. "Are you in pain? Do you want more bandages?" The young woman held up a box of first aid adhesive and eyed Adam's knuckles.

"Now, now," chuckled Adam, seeing what she was contemplating, "if you put any more tape on my hands, I won't be able to move my fingers!"

"I have a truck outside," Beppe offered.

"Thank you," smiled Adam, "but it's not necessary. Charlie, I wish you'd put that box away, because you're making me a little nervous. I only have a few scrapes and bruises-- not anything that needs immobilization!"

"How about you, Charlie?" inquired Beppe. "Do you need the hospital for any reason?"

"She's all right, Beppe," Adam assured the worried man. "Lyle didn't hurt her. We may suffer some bad press pretty soon, but there's no need for the emergency room."

"Lyle won't ever work for me, again!" Beppe angrily shook his head.

"It wasn't your fault," Adam tried to calm him down. "We aren't going to sue you."

Beppe wanted to deny that the concern hadn't occurred to him, but it was useless to pretend that it wasn't there.

"Thank you," sighed the general contractor in relief. "I'd better get back to work now. The weather forecaster says we're probably in for a drought this year, but I want to make sure we finish all the outside work we can, just in case it starts raining."

"I'll be out in a few minutes," Adam waved to his friend, as he disappeared out the front door.
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