Conflict of Interest

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“Grace, this is not what we had discussed. This is not what we had sent to the board. We are going to have to go back. It won’t sit well with them, the sudden change in direction.”

Abbi closed her office door after ensuring the words between them wouldn’t be overheard.

“This isn’t at all what we discussed,” Abbi repeated, trying to navigate her disconcertion while setting her folder of documents on her desk.

“We need to be reviewing option number two and giving them every reason to not dissolve this company upon takeover. You know as well as I do we will not be able to stop a hostile takeover.”

Abbi moved closer to Grace who hadn’t moved from the window. When Abbi stood next to her, she saw Grace wasn’t holding back her words to be obstinate. She wasn’t able to speak through the tears that were streaming down her face. Compassion and instinct had Abbi wrapping Grace in her arms.

“Oh, honey, it will be okay. We will work this out, I promise. I know it’s going to be hard, but we just have to keep our nose to the grindstone and stick with the plan. Things will work out, I just know it.”

“It’s not that,” Grace’s breathy, staggered, words were barely audible, “Luke Wallace, Luke Aaron Wallace. He’s my Luke – was my Luke,” she corrected. “I would like to believe our meeting was by chance, but this? It just feels so – I feel so dumb. How could I not have put that together? Luke Wallace.” She repeated his name; her words were swallowed up by a silent sob as she shook her head.

How had she not put it together? Luke Aaron. She’d heard it herself.

“I was blinded by ridiculous infatuation. I’m smarter than that, but I let myself fall–” No, she wouldn’t say in love.

Abbi’s face instantly became the image of realization of all that the situation entailed, and she motioned for Grace to sit. Abbi squatted in front of her and held both of her hands.

“I might not know what Luke’s intentions were throughout your courtship, but these are the things I do know. You cannot fake the kind of happy that I’ve seen from you over the past couple of weeks. To do that, to give you that kind of happiness – whether intentional or unintentional – he must have fallen just as hard for you. I also saw the way he was looking at you in that room, and every bit of it was shock and pain. I didn’t understand why at the moment, but I would bet money he didn’t realize how you’d feel. But across that table today, when he saw your hurt, it nearly killed him.”

Grace heard the words, but didn’t process them, she didn’t want to. If Abbi could hear the questions racing through her mind, the room wouldn’t have been as silent as it seemed. The pain and anger in her heart was crippling.

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