Conflict of Interest

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CHAPTER 35

Luke closed the door to the room he’d been given for the weekend so quietly, you’d have thought he was trying to hide from the air around him. After he had it closed, he waited and listened. His head was so low to the door his ear was nearly sitting on the keyhole. When he was satisfied nobody was coming, he slipped onto the chair next to the bed and dialed Mave’s number.

Mave answered before the phone had a chance to ring in his ear.

“Yellow?” Mave’s greeting was muffled by whatever he had shoveled into his mouth at the time. Luke imagined Mave on the living room couch, dropping chunks of food into it as he spoke.

“Mave, are you on the couch?”

“Where else would I be?”

Luke was sure a new chunk was dropping with every word. He tipped his head back, took a breath, and tried to stay focused.

“I need your help.” Luke looked to the door to ensure nobody was lurking. “How quickly can you finish your analysis?”

“A week. Maybe two. Same as what we told your pops. Everything going alright up there?” Concern replaced the sound of chewed food.

“Yeah, it’s great. Just, you know, I need this to work.”

“I told you,” Mave said.

“Told me what?”

“Conflict of interest. It applies. You know, two parties, different interests.” If Luke had been sitting next to Mave, he would have seen his friend intersect two fingers as they traveled in different directions.

“It’s going to work,” Luke repeated. “Needs to. Anyway, holding down the fort?”

“Sweet. Yeah. Fuck yeah. Football Sunday. Grace got any pretty friends that might want to join me? Scratch that, no women allowed.”

That was enough to get Luke to crack a smile.

“If you change your mind, she has three. None that I would be willing to set up with the Mr. Relationship doomsday that you are.”

“I know. I met them. They are more of a gang. And Casey, you know Casey from work? She’s hot. Wait, who said anything about a relationship?”

“Yeah, yeah. Relationships, the spawn of all evil. See what you can get done by Monday. See you tomorrow.”

“See ya.”

Mave was the first to end the call. He sat back in his borrowed home and thought, No problem, I didn’t have any plans, I’ll just work the rest of my Saturday night and most of football Sunday.

“Love sucks,” Mave muttered to himself and trudged up the stairs because he really didn’t have any other plans.

Well, Luke thought after hanging up with Mave, there isn’t any use in worrying about it. Yet. Then he pushed off the bed.

When Luke swung the door open he nearly tackled Edna where she stood just outside.

“Holy shi-oot!” His language corrected immediately but nothing could have fazed his grandmother. That and he supposed she wouldn’t have minded the swift swat that would have found the backside of his head for his language.

“Anything you need to share, Luke Aaron?” she said pointedly. He already felt guilty. She mastered the art of forcing guilt.

“Ah, no, everything is fine. Good. Great, actually,” he said, confidence building with every word.

Edna turned to go down the stairs but let her words linger behind her: “I find that in life it’s better to talk about things in question, rather than find the answers before they can be asked.”

Luke squinted after his grandmother. She couldn’t know, there would have been no way. With a grunt, his forehead found the wall and stayed there. This wasn’t going to be good. Maybe even bad.

He decided to ignore it. He needed Grace to love him and hoped that would be enough. Nothing else would do it.

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