Conflict of Interest

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“What do you think?”

Aaron Wallace got up to get a closer look at the numbers and projections Luke and Travis had just finished presenting. He’d entertained the thought months ago, even before they explained their plan, but had dismissed it just as quickly.

“I don’t think this is in line with our history or monetary plan moving forward.” Randy Flamingo wasn’t in favor. He had shown it by questioning every calculation, forecast, and the budget numbers they’d prepared. In the end, it only made Travis and Luke look better.

In fact, the barrage of challenge after challenge that came from Flamingo only assuaged any of Luke’s lingering doubts, and he hoped, Aaron Wallace’s, too. It was a solid presentation.

“What history and monetary plan are you referring to, Flamingo?” Aaron asked, always willing to let his teams state their opinions. He found it led to a better discussion, new ideas.

“We, historically, have made aggressive moves to put ourselves in a financially stable and superior position. This includes business takeover and restructure,” Randy said pompously.

“We,” Aaron added emphasis on we to ensure Randy understood what they represented, “have made calculated moves to ensure we are financially stable so we can provide the best service to our clients and investors. These clients need us to succeed while complying with law and regulation. By ensuring we take care of them, we, in turn, have become profitable.”

Aaron Wallace lingered on his words a bit and nodded to himself. Then he directed his attention back to Luke and Travis.

“You’ve run this by the board? Grace, Abbi, the rest of the leaders?”

“Not yet. Looking for your input first,” Luke said.

“And you think the board will like, or, be in favor of the candidates you’ve recommended to run Thomas and Jane?”

“I do. We,” Luke corrected and nodded to Mave, “do.”

“I like it. It’s smart. And I like you didn’t take the easy way out. Let’s get on their calendar. This will be a bit of a strategy change.”

Luke and Mave shook hands excitedly. Nothing beat hard work. Hard, smart-as-hell, work. Especially when it paid off. Mave slapped a friendly pat on Randy’s back.

“It’s alright, Flamingo. I think you’ll appreciate this in the long run.”

Randy stood and followed Mave out. Luke gathered his laptop and notes and started for the door.

“One second, Luke,” Aaron said, motioning to his son. “Come over here for a minute.”

Luke plopped his things back down and walked to the front where his dad still hovered, hands in his pockets, doing a little rock from heel to toe.

“This,” Aaron pointed to a now blank screen. “It was good.”

“I agree. And thanks.” Luke leaned on the edge of the table and crisscrossed his ankles. “Mave did nearly all the heavy lifting. He’s smart.”

“It’s what we hired him for, believe it or not.” Aaron smiled. “Not just so you could have a play pal at work.”

It was Luke’s turn to smile.

“You know, I couldn’t help but wonder if all this has anything to do with a one Grace Thomas?”

“The idea?” Luke began. “No, we had that in motion when we dove into their background. When this,” his head motioning to the plop of papers, “was just a bullet during a strategic brainstorming session. I had the genius idea to try and go on a blind date with Grace to get her opinion and overall feel on it. As it turns out, it didn’t go overly well. But the push, the drive to finish it?” Luke nodded and folded his arms. “Absolutely. She’s good, dad. Great, actually. She’s intelligent, works harder than many I’ve seen and gets her people to work harder for it. But she treats them well. She’s amazing at it all.”

“We’re still talking about the business here?”

Luke grinned as he replied. “Mostly.”

“She knows you love her?”

Luke looked up.

“Don’t be so surprised,” Aaron said. “I saw you stumbling around that office. Bringing coffees, lunches, dinners. Pining away.”

“I was not pining.”

“Own it, son.”

“It was that bad, huh?”

Aaron Wallace smiled. “Or that good. Matter of perspective. You planning on doing anything about that?”

“Yes. I’m actively waiting.”

“Actively waiting?” Aaron was amused.

“It’s torture.”

“You want to know torture? Meeting your grandma Edna for lunch this week and having to explain how you got to be ‘actively waiting’ in the first place.”

“Shit. What day?”

“Language. Tuesday.”

“Sorry. Women are hard.” Luke’s hands found his face.

“No, son. They are right.” Aaron walked to the table and put a knowing arm around Luke’s shoulders. “If they think we messed up, we probably did.”

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