Conflict of Interest

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CHAPTER 29

The girls stretched out across Grace’s bed as she packed like they had countless times before. Rachel fluttered her feet back and forth off the edge of the bed. Casey rested her head on Rachel’s back. And Aimeé sat against the headboard, her feet propped on Casey.

“This is so romantic. I love him. Do you love him yet?” Rachel asked in her wistful, romantic way.

“How could anybody love somebody in a week?” Casey asked, reasonably.

“Hopefully everybody on your dating site, seeing as it’s one of your meal-tickets.” Grace retorted as she poked her head around the closet opening.

“She evaded,” Rachel perked up. “You evaded,” she directed at Grace.

“She evaded,” Aimeé and Casey agreed.

“I didn’t evade. What do you think?” Grace walked out with two flannel shirts, two sweaters, and a sweatshirt.

“I love them, but isn’t it only two days?” Rachel asked, staring at the pile of clothing in Grace’s hands.

“Three, if you count today,” Grace said, defending her selections.

“Do you love him?” Aimeé asked again, not willing to let the topic slip.

Grace walked into the bedroom from the closet and sat on the edge of the bed.

“If I don’t, the way I’m feeling will land me there fast. He’s everything I – no – I couldn’t even imagine somebody as great as Luke,” she corrected herself. “Yet, here he is giving me his time and attention. It’s something as close to love as I think one could get without being all the way there.”

“And a trip to Grandma’s,” Casey quipped, and the girls laughed.

“It’s funny, but even that I love. I’m close with my family, too. We have the same interests.” Grace folded a flannel shirt and set it on the bed.

“You’re both accountants, working to maintain your fathers’ legacies,” Casey added, treading lightly, seeing if Grace had any indication of just how their two companies fit together.

“We are,” Grace agreed absently. “But honestly, work is the furthest thing from my mind right now. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I like Luke more than I love my job.”

Aimeé’s head rose, and Casey lifted hers. “You’re kidding.”

“Not at all,” Grace said. It was as simple as that, she thought.

“That’s interesting,” Casey said, curiously.

“It’s wonderful.” Aimeé jumped in, cutting Casey off before she could take away from the moment. “What will you do? While you’re there,” she added. “Is there an agenda?”

“I have no idea.” Grace simply liked the idea of being with Luke. Wherever, doing whatever, it didn’t matter.

“That’s very not like you.” Rachel bounced a little on the bed. “I can’t wait to hear about it.”

The doorbell rang, and they sprang into action.

“He’s early!”

Grace threw her clothes into the overnight bag that already held her essentials, while the three other women raced down the stairs like a herd of elephants.

“No. It’s okay. You all go down. I don’t need any help.” Grace said sarcastically to the empty room and hauled the bag to the stairs. Maybe it was a lot for two – no, three days. But she’d be ready for anything.

Grace made it to the bottom of the staircase and laughed as she came upon Luke answering her friends’ onslaught of questions. She shot him an apologetic grin, and he shrugged casually as if to say, no big deal.

“Will you guys lock up for me?”

“Lock up?” Casey scoffed. “I’m staying.”

Grace pointed a finger at her. “Don’t drink all of my coffee.”

“You clean a girl out once.”

“Every time.” Grace pulled Casey in for a hug. “Every single time. But I love you anyway.”

“You, too. Be safe. Take care of her,” Casey added to Luke.

Luke grinned and watched Grace hug the other two, wondering if they realized she’d be back again on Sunday night. They waved from the steps like parents would for a kid going away to camp. He definitely wouldn’t mind having these women around. They were fun. And they all had something in common. They all loved Grace.

Rachel, Aimeé, and Casey watched until they were out of sight.

“I’m a schmuck,” Casey admitted, finally pulling her hand down from the wave.

“Don’t be so sure,” Rachel defended her.

“I agree. I like him. I like them,” Aimeé agreed agreeably.

“It’s going to get ugly.” Casey turned to walk inside her home for the weekend.

“Casey has the nicest two houses – two – out of all of us. Why does she stay here? Maybe I can stay at one of her places?” Rachel examined jokingly.

“She’s closer to family here.”

Rachel nodded, understanding Aimeé was talking about them.

“Let’s stay, too.” Rachel said as she leaned her head on Aimeé’s shoulder.

“Let’s.”

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