Conflict of Interest

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Prep meeting, meeting with the board, meeting after meeting with the board, and when she finally stopped running around long enough to look at the clock, it read eleven-fifteen.

Grace got up to stretch her legs and walked to the window. When she looked out, she hoped she would catch Luke as he walked by. Maybe he would be early for lunch. She imagined he would say hello to people as he passed, perhaps nodding in their direction, in his slow and confident stride.

She folded her arms and leaned against the windowpane, pleased and smiling to herself.

“Now that’s a look of satisfaction if I’ve ever seen one.”

Grace turned to see Maggie standing at the door with Seth. Usually, she wouldn’t look twice, but amidst her appreciation of manly appearances, thanks to Luke, it crossed her mind. She noticed Seth was tall, just a bit too skinny, but not an unsightly looking analyst. Especially when he was holding what looked to be the reports she’d asked for. And she’d need them since the board confirmed the rumors: Wallace wanted Thomas and Jane, and due diligence was set to start tomorrow. If she thought the paperwork was a nightmare now, gathering all the requested statistics and reports to send to Wallace, at his request, was going to be worse. Oh well, she took a long breath to relax.

Grace looked at Seth again, then wondered, had he ever dated? Was he even interested in dating? Everybody out there was in the same boat, weren’t they? Single or not, trying or not trying. The thought struck her that somebody like Seth could have been on the other side of her blind date.

Thinking of which, she should get that number so she could apologize and explain her standing up a complete stranger. At least reassure him that it hadn’t been her getting one look and darting back out as fast as she came in. She had simply found her match and would wish him luck in finding the same. She hadn’t wanted to reach out earlier but the idea of being on the other end, the stood up end, and not knowing was tugging at her conscience.

“Possibly.” She agreed, knowing she was more than satisfied. “I see you pawned your paperwork off on the smart guy.” She sent Seth an appreciative look, hoping he knew how much the work he did was valued.

“I will have you know I looked at the top two pages in great detail.” Maggie was pointedly protecting her work and busy schedule. “These look good.”

“Lucky for me – and us.” Grace winked, imitating Luke the best she could. How she already loved his mannerisms. “Hey, did you happen to find a number, a phone number,” she specified motioning to the folder as she held out her hand for it, “in there?”

Maggie’s confused look answered her question but she offered verbal confirmation, “I didn’t, but I can take another look.”

“No, don’t worry about it. It’s from before my vacation. I should call this guy I never ended up seeing. That blind date. At the very least shoot him a text.”

Curiosity filled both Maggie and Seth’s faces instantaneously. Maggie’s, a pleasantly surprised, you better tell me now, type of look; Seth’s heated from a hint of embarrassment.

His stutter was out fast, “I-I,” he waited for a beat and thought, “No. Nope. No number.”

Then Seth turned on a dime and walked back across the room and out, away from both women.

“Wow, he really knows how to make an exit,” Grace piped up with her eyes wide in amusement, “Interesting guy, our Seth.”

“Come on now,” Maggie walked into the office and leaned herself on the windowpane across from Grace, “You have to know why he acts so strangely.”

Grace angled her head to think about it, and nothing came. Not even a witty idea or comment. “No, and my brain is so fried I don’t even have it in me to be funny about it.”

“Honey, Seth has had a crush on you since the day he started seven years ago. I’m fairly certain that is the one reason he hasn’t taken his talents anywhere else. We keep him paid well, sure, but he could go somewhere else and possibly do better, or move up in the ranks.”

“Does he want that?” Grace panicked at the idea they hadn’t been keeping Seth appropriately engaged and utilized; in talent and position. Then thought, a crush? Had she heard that right? She had never been looking, but before Luke, she wondered, had she become blind to the flirt? Maybe her girlfriends had been right.

“Who would have thunk?” She tried for a dab of humor.

“Yeah,” Maggie’s tone turned humorously sarcastic, “who would have thought an eligible man would be attracted to one of the most beautiful, and successful I might add, women in Minneapolis? Outrageous.”

Maggie made her way out of the room, and Grace’s smile followed Maggie and her sign-off out. “I expect a dinner soon so you can fill me in on that satisfied smile, and that…” Maggie waved a hand in Grace’s direction, “let’s call it a glow.”

Maggie was a mind-reader. It was official.

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