Conflict of Interest

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Luke wandered down to the kitchen while Grace finished showering. Something about lingering in the heat and steam, he remembered her saying. He would have caught all the words, but she had a way of causing a bit of distraction.

The fridge seemed as good a place to start as any. When he opened it, his hungry eyes screamed jackpot as the leftover pizza sat perfectly in its wonderful little bag. It’s official, he thought. He was in heaven.

He threw a slice in his mouth and held it there while he zipped up the bag. He chewed as he continued his search for breakfast. There was a cupboard filled with more spices than he would ever know what to do with. Another with rice, beans, sauces and marinades, and spilling out of a basket at the bottom were potatoes and onions. Luke closed the cupboard door and before opening the next, took a second to admire her taste. He wasn’t one to usually notice, but it looked good, rich.

The kitchen wasn’t white like you see in so many other places or all of those TV shows his mom watched. The cabinets were dark, stained espresso, with matching dark hardware. The light fixtures were a mixture of the same stained wood and iron. It wouldn’t have seemed like a woman’s home, or what he envisioned when he thought about it, but there were touches of the woman he was in love with. A cream-colored vase sat in the middle of the island with fresh flowers spilling out. He’d have to buy her flowers on his way home one day.

Home. Huh, that was a strange notion, he thought.

Thick, heavy, wooden frames surrounded pictures – or prints, he supposed – of foliage. He silently congratulated himself on his accurate description.

Luke noticed a single frame sitting on the bar table under a kitchen window. On his way to check it out, he snuck a look into the last cupboard and whispered, “I love you,” knowing Grace was still upstairs. He reached down and pulled out the box of Peanut Butter Crunch and hugged it. Luke one-armed the Crunch and pulled a chair over to the side table and sat. Deciding against reaching his hand inside like the bachelor version of himself had done millions of times, he popped up, found a bowl, and sat again. He held the bowl close as he threw the Captain Crunch in his mouth a couple at a time.

“You,” he said, “must be Raymond Thomas.” Luke looked at the photograph of a well-built man standing over a grill, smiling at the camera.

“I’m Luke, it’s nice to meet you.” He slanted an eye at the man in the picture. “I’m sorry for what you saw, and most likely heard last night. Had I known you were watching, well, you’re right, I wouldn’t have stopped. We’ll just leave it at sorry. Also, I would have put clothes on when I ran down to get a bottle of water.”

“Anyway,” Luke went on, crunching. “I’d like to ask permission to date your daughter. I should tell you, I’m not taking this lightly. As I see it, the way things are going now-” he paused as he threw another handful in, “-seeing as I’m pretty much a goner when it comes to your daughter, I’ll most likely want to ask her to marry me before too long. I’m getting up there in marriage years. All but one of my friends got married before the age of twenty-nine.” He went on with his one-sided conversation. “You’re an accountant? Sorry, I knew that. Me, too. My dad said-”

“Luke,” Grace spoke from the steps. “Who are you talking to?”

She appeared from the staircase, and he felt like – and probably looked like – a deer in headlights and stopped mid-crunch.

“Ah.” He motioned his head toward the picture and slowly finished his mouthful.

“You’re talking to my dad?”

He didn’t feel completely crazy the way she’d asked, but it was something close.

“Yes,” he admitted, “I took a gamble in my assumption it was him, so we sat down and talked for a bit. I mean, I mostly did the talking.”

“And what exactly were you talking about?” Her smile was gradual as she walked over to him.

“I thought it appropriate that I ask if I could date his daughter.”

“Did he give his approval?”

“Absolutely. Though he did request that I wear pants during our next water break.”

Grace flung her arms around him, and they stood for a long moment, just holding each other. Her tight hug pulled at his heart, and he knew from that moment on, he was hers. Then she shoved her hand right into the box of Captain Crunch, and he couldn’t believe just how perfect she was.

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