Conflict of Interest

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Laughter and candlelight filled the Bistro late into Thursday night. The restaurant was empty except for the four women, as it had been since the first Thursday it opened.

Always a Thursday, because it gave all of the girls something to look forward to. That and anybody could get through a Friday, even if slightly hungover. One by one, the girls told stories of their week.

Rachel and Richard – last name not allowed – had their first kiss and subsequently, their first romp. It was, “as expected” as far as first, not overly spectacular, romps go. Though Rachel seemed willing to let it try to improve.

Casey offered to pay for the evening as she had a significant one-time consult payout for hacking into a local company on purpose to test their security. Apparently, it wasn’t as secure as they thought. They extended her a contract to help consult with their team. The girls followed about fifty percent of the conversation. They understood enough to wonder just how much money Casey had stashed away.

Aimeé’s week didn’t really have too much to show for it except for an Officer, Christopher Finnegan, making frequent morning visits to pick up a coffee and flirt for a few minutes, which she was happy to partake in. Flirting was her specialty, second only to her baking and coffee making, which were tied for first.

The girls sped through their own updates and left little room for comment, which was unusual. They sat then, eager, and stared at Grace from each side of the table, slowly sipping their wine as they waited.

Grace started with a detailed recount of Edna’s since Casey and Rachel had only heard it secondhand, then wound through lunches, dinners, frisky morning escapades, and their first slow and sensual love-making session. She paused only for their oohs and ahhs of admiration. Even Casey admitted they were a good fit and was jealous – not of the relationship, but the benefits that came along with it.

“I thought things might change when I went back to work again, but we’ve made it work. And dinners were the domestic kind. Like we got home, made spaghetti together, and ate it on the couch in sweats.”

Rachel was fascinated, “You sweat-pant-ate.”

“We sweat-pant-ate,” Grace confirmed and tried to match Rachel’s seriousness.

“Really?” Casey asked to be sure she was reading Rachel right.

“Really. It’s a big deal.”

“You’re kidding.” Casey couldn’t see any sort of a deal.

“To not be made up,” Aimeé chimed in. “Seeing the other in their natural habitat. It’s very domestic. Pretty soon you won’t be wearing makeup to bed and skipping a night between shaving your legs.”

“Why, when you say it, does it sound like a fashion trend?” Casey asked.

The four girls laughed and sipped.

“How is everything going with work?” Rachel asked since Grace broached the subject. Casey grunted, showing her added interest – knowing she knew a little too much working for the enemy.

“I’m going to assume Ms. Hacker here,” Grace pointed to Casey,” already knows more than she should, but it’s been busy. We are scrambling left and right trying to get data for due diligence. The teams are having to maintain their regular workload, too.”

Grace took a sip to try and swallow the exhaustion that was building up just talking about it.

“We have an in-person meeting with the leaders and advisors from both companies for the first time on Monday. Maggie has been superwoman getting everything ready.”

“I wonder how the meeting will go.” Rachel’s voice sounded overly concerned.

“Just another meeting. I have something up my sleeve so Wallace might be in for a surprise – a good surprise.”

Aimeé, Casey, and Rachel nodded in agreement but shared a look that said, somebody would be surprised and it might not be Wallace.

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