Conflict of Interest

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CHAPTER 36

It was the best weekend she’d had in as far back as she could remember. They rounded it out with Sunday morning church, followed by brunch hosted by Harold and Sarah, her new favorite, and completely adorable, married couple. They bickered as old couples do, but it was never mean spirited. Jokes and laughter filled their tiny rambler.

The only reason Grace, Edna, and Luke could find to leave was that there wasn’t any room for them to take a nap. And they needed one after all of the food they’d eaten. It was leave, or fall asleep at the table.

Grace held her stomach as she and Luke piled themselves into the car. If Edna had squeezed any tighter in her farewell hug, she would have burst.

They waved to Edna, who was sending them off from the driveway. With a quick honk and both arms waving out their windows, they were on their way.

Grace took the moment to indulge in thought. This is what her life could really be like. For the first time in forever, she envisioned a life with the man sitting next to her. Dedicated to her family, work, and friends, of course. But all of this, too.

She wanted time and experiences with Luke. She wanted dinners at the table where they’d talk about one another’s day. She wanted movies on the couch with popcorn. And eventually, she wanted kids. Kids who would love to visit great-grandma’s house and all of great-grandma’s crazy friends.

Grandparents too; her mom would love and spoil them and, oh how she wished her dad could be here to meet Luke. He would think there wasn’t anybody better on this earth for her and he would’ve known it from the first time they’d met. They would have been inseparable. She agreed with herself in a nod.

“Thank you for coming with me this weekend.” Luke’s sincere tone interrupted her thoughts.

“It was amazing,” she said genuinely.

“Everybody loves you up here, so it’s probably good you liked it. It’s easy to love you, so I don’t blame them.”

His words hung in the air.

Did he mean to say that? Had he meant to say he loved her?

It couldn’t be. It was just something to say when people liked meeting you. Everybody loved you up there today. It was an expression.

“I mean it.” He looked over when they came to a stop at a four-way crossing that would take them out of town. “I’m serious. You make it easy to love everything about you.”

She waited, but there were no cheesy lines or jokes, no quips to make her laugh. She sat in silence and stared at him. She was so happy she could cry, and just for the inability to hold it all the way in, she let her eyes mist over for just a moment and finally smiled.

“Me too,” she agreed, “I feel everything you’re feeling and more.”

Their lips found each other in the middle of their two seats.

“Thank you for letting me come with you,” she whispered because she feared if it were anything more, happy crackles from tears would find her words.

All she could think every second of the ride back was this is it. They’ve finally found each other. He’s the one.

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