Conflict of Interest

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CHAPTER 8

It took a minute to get settled down once she made it inside. Her heart was still pounding. Was it the brisk walk and her out-of-shape lungs? Or had she been holding her breath that whole time? Grace let out a gasp.

Wow, she thought again, he was so unbelievably gorgeous. She should leave it alone. But, what could it hurt just to ask him his name? She heaved herself off the door and quickly opened it.

“Hey, I,” she started to ask his name, and he was gone. She looked out onto the empty street below.

The hint of disappointment she felt surprised her but didn’t make it less apparent. She closed the door and walked to her home office, sliding the pile of work into her arms. She leafed through it once to make sure it was all there and found the ripped piece of paper her date’s phone number was on, tucked into the pages. She rolled her eyes at forgetting it. She put it on top of the file, closed it, and shoved it in her bag. Here we go, she thought, and was out the door once more.

“I’m Luke.”

She startled at the sight of him. Just like that, he was there again, right outside her door. All she could do was smile, and a sense of relief washed over every inch of her.

She stopped and stared for the second time.

“I don’t think I was quite ready for our earlier encounter.” His hands slapped together as he imitated their introduction, and she laughed.

“You probably know this, but you’re beautiful. I got about a foot around the block and realized I’d be an idiot to walk away without asking you for a drink. My dad has this saying, something about when you see something you want you should go for it.” He paused. “That sounds too aggressive, but you get the idea, maybe?” He cleared his throat nervously.

Her laugh was quick. She appreciated that he seemed to be having just as hard a time as she was.

“I have a full-time job, I live in my own condo not too far away, I eat anything within reason, and I like a good whiskey to end my day. I have to try and be a little smooth right now without getting too creepy, but maybe I’ve already lost that battle?” he said with a small, almost imperceptible shrug.

His shrug seemed to her an offering.

When she said nothing, waiting for him to continue, he nodded and rubbed his hand on his chin, then chuckled to himself and continued.

“I’m going to step to the side in case you want to start running away. Your date, he’s a lucky guy. But, sorry,” Luke went on. He couldn’t help himself, “I have to be obnoxious for a little bit longer. What if you did join me for a drink? No strings attached. Then you can meet your date. Besides, I might think you’re terrible.”

He watched her try and stifle the bit of laughter that trickled out, but when he heard the sweet, light sound, it burned in his gut in the best way.

“A drink?” She questioned.

“One drink.” He tried not to sound too hopeful.

Grace couldn’t curb the sincere curl of her lips. It crept across her face as she shrugged. An action to mimic his. Grace tried her best at flirting, and to think of something to say that would shield her intrigue. But with the spark of attraction wreaking havoc on her brain, all that came out was, “Okay.”

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