Conflict of Interest

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CHAPTER 53

It was the most professional Aimeé or Casey had looked in their entire lives. Rather than an apron wrapped around her torso and flour on her face, Aimeé had on skinny black slacks with heels and a trim black crewneck sweater. The special occasion even had her black bob of hair down in light waves.

Casey wasn’t far from the professional working woman herself. She flaunted a white ruffled blouse with navy blue slacks and shiny silver flats that matched her shiny silver jewelry. She worked hard to look the part but couldn’t break away from the rusty bun sitting atop her head.

The two ditched their jackets and looked each other up and down in front of the office elevator. The reaction was immediate. They both started cracking up at the effort they put forth to simply fit in on the business-dressed floors of Grace’s office. The laughter was followed by a high-five between them. The elevator opened to take them up, and Casey sang, “Fake it ’til you make it!” and both the girls walked in.

Pure joy filled Maggie as she saw the two walking toward her. She stood and brought her hands together in front of her heart and let a heavy breath out.

“Aren’t you two beauties a sight for sore eyes?” Maggie walked around her desk and greeted the two with a bear hug that engulfed both of them at the same time. Their heads almost bumped over Maggie’s as she brought them as close as possible.

“You girls need to come in here more often.” She let them both breathe but didn’t let them far enough away to miss her gossip. “Especially with all of the hubbub going on. Let me let you two in on a little secret.”

She ushered the girls into a conference room for privacy and nearly pushed them into two chairs, then dragged over one of her own, and sat directly in front of them.

Maggie cut to the chase. “Full story, or what you’re here for?”

“How do you know what we’re-” Casey’s confusion was cut off by Aimeé and her flat hand.

“Full story.”

“I have ten minutes, then Grace will be out of her meeting so we don’t have a lot of time.” Maggie’s feet stepped forward twice to scoot herself closer in her rolling chair, her body waddling back and forth like a penguin.

“Okay, first, the facts. Clearly, we know Grace is in love with Luke. We absolutely know that Luke is in love with Grace. Though I can’t confirm that he didn’t know ahead of time who Grace was.”

“He did,” the two women confirmed.

“Oh, yes, interesting.” Maggie said, not surprised. “Anyway, he fell for her hard. Luke seems like a good man for our Grace. Sure, he has to weave in and out of large-company politics, but the word on the street is that the Wallace’s are pretty straight forward, and straight-laced men. They run their company the same way.” Maggie whispered her own bit of gossip, “Making a boatload of money while they’re at it.”

“I know,” Casey agreed, “it will be nearly impossible to stop them.” She added, knowing Wallace had zero intention of stopping, and there wasn’t any amount of defense Thomas and Jane would be able to do.

“It’s sad, but alas.” Maggie slouched for just a moment to let it sink in, then was back at it. “So, it was courtesy of you two, then, I assume, Grace was supposed to meet Luke?”

Feeling no shame, Aimeé and Casey nodded without batting an eye and waited for Maggie to continue. She barreled on.

“I had a hunch, Seth – he handles our budgeting and forecasts – was up to something, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. He didn’t have anything to do with Luke and Grace being at odds – they’ll have to figure that one out – but that number Grace has in her fancy Burberry bag,” Maggie’s head nodded twice in the direction of Grace’s office, “isn’t the one she left in that stack of papers. It’s Seth’s.”

Maggie thought on her words for a bit and explained at their confused head-tilts.

“I worked the file first. I saw the paper and left it in there in the off-chance it was a number Grace needed for work on the reports or presentation. Grace mentioned it in passing that she wanted it and Seth denied knowing it existed. He would have seen it front and center when he opened the file. Then, wouldn’t you know it, a few days later he hands it to me.”

“If he handed you the same-”

“Not the same.” Maggie cut in. “I’ll not let you think I memorized the number, and tell you straight away my intrigue got the best of me. I looked up the number in our global address book, the one that holds all of our employee’s numbers, sure enough it’s Seth’s.”

“What I want to know is,” Maggie crossed her ankles and leaned in, “why you agreed to set them up in the first place? Luke, not Seth. We’ll deal with him later.” She clarified.

“They were a ninety-six,” Aimeé stated as if Maggie knew what she was referring to.

The blank stare from Maggie forced Casey to explain the matchme.com algorithm and finish with a quick defense.

“I would never have agreed had I not thought they would actually hit it off. Grace deserves love, a good guy, and somebody that understands how much her work means to her. Who better than a man like Luke, who’s in the same position as she is?”

Casey looked up, stating, “If, you know, you don’t include the part about him taking over her company.”

“I have a plan.” Maggie nodded, agreeing with Casey’s words. As far as she was concerned they seemed perfect for each other. She had known Grace her entire life, bright and full of love. In the past few weeks Maggie saw Grace had lost a little of that love, and it was time she got it back.

The three leaned closer together as Casey and Aimeé listened intently for the next five minutes.

“Okay,” Aimeé said finally, digesting the plan.

“Okay,” echoed Casey.

“We agree nobody tells Grace.”

Aimeé stood and looked down, directing her French-accented words to Casey. “I won’t tell, but if she finds out, I am throwing you under buses.”

“Under the bus.” Casey corrected and rolled her eyes, “Throwing you under the bus. There’s only one.”

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