Conflict of Interest

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CHAPTER 45

Luke cornered Mave in a short hall that veered toward a hidden coffee machine. Anger and frustration filled his head to the point of exploding, and Mave was his trigger and his target. In a heated, huffing sneer, he pointed at Mave’s chest and began his tirade.

“What the fuck, Mave. This,” he pointed in the direction of the conference room from hell, “is why I needed you to get me the information about the company last week. So I could, I don’t know,” Luke spun around “show her there was another way.” Luke’s hands laid out in front of him, imitating the path he’d wanted.

“A way to keep her company and for Wallace to provide the capital to expand its business. Now I look like an asshole, and the whole thing could have gone differently. I called in a single fucking favor from you, and nothing. Over a week ago. So much for fucking deadlines.” His whispered words hissed out.

Luke turned again to pace and swung back around as quickly as he walked away, “You show up at my door, and I let you live with me, no questions asked. You slowly take over every room in my condo, and I don’t say a word. I shift schedules and make sure I’m there for you, and I can’t get one fucking report presentation from you for this? To help the woman I love? Or,” he said with sudden realization, “is that it? You can’t be happy so I can’t either, right? What the fuck were you even doing for the last week?”

For a minute, Mave didn’t move. He just stared at his friend without saying a word.

Mave began to leave and moved his shoulder to avoid running into Luke on his way out. He avoided a run-in with another poor schmuck who was trying to get an innocent cup of coffee, then paused briefly and looked over his shoulder.

“I didn’t realize I was getting in your way. I’ll start packing my things and look for a place. If you need me out sooner, I can move in with my mom for a bit.” Then he was gone.

Luke stood alone. He didn’t realize the impact his words would have until he said them. He didn’t want Mave to move out. When his hands slid over his face, a frustrated groan left his body. The coffee stranger commented.

“I’m willing to bet this isn’t just a Monday thing?”

Luke looked at the man. He wasn’t amused, irritated, or angry. Just looked. He wished the thoughts in his mind would stop hammering to the front of his forehead.

“Not just a Monday thing.” He confirmed.

“I’m Seth.”

“Luke.”

The men shook hands and offered a nod.

“Can I ask what the trouble is?” Seth inquired.

Luke knew he shouldn’t go here, but he had to know. “Do you know Grace Thomas?”

Seth’s eyes rounded. “I do. She’s been my boss, well, my boss’s, boss’s boss,” he added, moving his empty mug up and down for every boss, “my entire working career. Nice. Smart. I don’t have to tell you about her looks. It’s a lethal combination. Do you know her?”

“We’re dating. Were dating. Are dating.” Luke was irritated that it irritated him to hear another man acknowledge Grace’s beauty, even though it shouldn’t have. All you had to do is glance her direction, man or woman, to know it immediately. In an attempt to ease his directness and confusion, he offered, “We just began dating. And sure as shit, I fell in love with her.”

Curiously looking at Seth now and searching for answers, “Seth, have you already found the person you’re supposed to be with?”

“Not yet.” It was an honest answer.

“Good. Be prepared. It will fly you high and then drop you from ten thousand feet. Nice to meet you, Seth. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.”

The men left the hall at the same time and turned to walk in different directions.

Luke made his way to the door.

Seth sauntered toward Maggie.

Ensuring nobody was around, he leaned over her computer monitor and looked her directly in the eye.

“It came.”

“What came?” Maggie answered without returning the eye-contact, unconcerned until she heard his reply.

A silent fist pump appeared over her monitor.

“My chance.”

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