Conflict of Interest

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Grace was shocked. Just completely shocked, she thought again, speechless.

Grace looked up at Seth and back down at the report he’d handed her. She’d need to dive into the details of what she was looking at. The numbers were phenomenal. But she couldn’t afford to not understand the where, what, and how behind each calculation, each data point.

She flipped through the first couple of pages, this was precisely what she was looking for. Praying for.

Wallace – if she handled her proposal and he handled the takeover in just the right way – might want them to continue operating as is. He’d want them to grow, sure, but the healthy and prosperous company that was Thomas and Jane could remain intact.

“Seth, this is perfect. He knew our numbers were good, but this,” she trailed off, shaking her head, “he can’t say no. I don’t know much about Aaron Wallace, but from what I’ve heard through conversation, he’ll be willing if it’s smart and profitable. I love it.”

Sincerity filled her eyes. “Thank you for taking the time to do this.” Grace understood the work, the hours, the extremely long days, and the resources he would have had to tap to finish as quickly as he did.

“Of course. I would do anything for you, I mean, for the company. You know, for Thomas and Jane.” He stumbled like she’d never seen. “Because you’re a Thomas, so it means for you, but not you personally.” Horrified, he steamrolled through in a rush. “But not that I wouldn’t do it for you personally, because technically I did, because you asked, so.”

“I get it, don’t worry about it at all.” Come on, Seth, get a hold of yourself, she thought, trying her best for a look of understanding. “I have to take this to Abbi, but I think we have a winner.”

“I sent it to her.” Seth’s words flew out as he fumblingly straightened his shirtsleeve.

“Perfect.” She got up and moved around the table to walk him out. “I mean it, Seth, thank you,” She took his hand in a shake and halted at the feeling of their hands. It was strange, it wasn’t a bad feeling, but she couldn’t stop the slanted grin at the way their hands fit. Then she nodded, let go, and made her way out of the door, passing Maggie on the way.

Once Grace was out of earshot, Seth turned to Maggie, and all he could do was throw his head back and groan.

“Oh sweetie,” Maggie attempted to reassure him as she watched him bring the hand that had just been held by Grace’s closer to his body, “It didn’t sound, or look, that bad from my point of view. You got a little choppy there in the middle, but overall I think you pleased Grace just fine.”

Maggie lingered in the room and pretended to straighten photographs and align stacks of paper before she pried further. Grace liked her room organized anyway, so it wasn’t wholly frivolous.

“Did you happen to find that number Grace was looking for the other day? I can’t find it anywhere at my desk. I assumed since it wasn’t in the folder, it had fallen out somewhere along the way.”

She didn’t make eye contact right away, she knew that would have made him nervous, so Maggie fiddled with a spare pen and highlighter on Grace’s desk before placing them in her drawer.

Not hearing a response, Maggie turned toward Seth, who looked back at her like a boy who’d been caught.

“Seth,” Maggie said, in a motherly tone. “If you found that number, you have to give it to Grace. It is not yours to have or to keep from her.”

Resigned, Seth sighed., “I know.” He moved his hand over his face in exasperation, “I just, I, what the hell, you might as well know.”

“I know.”

Seth’s eyes shot to Maggie’s, “What do you mean you know?”

“I know that you’ve had your eye on Grace ever since you started here. It’s been almost a decade, and you’ve been pining. And no, before you panic, nobody else knows or has paid enough attention to know.” Maggie watched relief wash over him as he backed into the guest chair across from Grace’s desk. “But just because you think you have feelings for her doesn’t mean you can keep that number from her. Besides, she was going to use it to call and tell whoever it was that she was sorry and she won’t be able to meet him. What if that was you who’d been expecting her message?”

Maggie liked to think she’d perfected the rational scold. Her five children had turned out alright. “What could it hurt to be the guy that gives her something she thought she lost?”

“Yeah.” Seth looked at least semi-pleased with that solution, even though he knew the stupid reason she had stood the man up was because she found some other jerk that swiped her up. Luke, he immaturely grumbled the name in his mind. He probably wasn’t even a jerk if Grace liked him, and that irritated him even more.

“You never know what could happen. Be the good guy now, and who knows, if it doesn’t work out with this guy, you can finally decide to make a move. Life has a funny way of working out.”

Maggie wisely walked out of Grace’s office, mission accomplished. Grace didn’t need other people finding out more about her life than they already knew. She was finally happy, and Maggie would do whatever she could to keep it that way. Even if it meant feeding Seth a little hope. He would find his match someday. She was sure of it.

Maggie spotted Grace and Abbi huddled over Abbi’s desk pointing at a document, nodding heads, and smiling with renewed energy. Grace laughed at something Abbi had said, and Maggie noted the illumination she was radiating. Yes, whatever this boy was doing for Grace was worth it.

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