Conflict of Interest

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Grace hadn’t seen Luke all day. She’d avoided Seth like the plague. She didn’t want him to feel bad, but she had a job to do. She needed to focus and couldn’t have any distractions.

When Grace looked up she caught a glimpse of a perfectly positioned gray bun and sprang out of her chair and bolted for the door.

“Edna! Hi, what are you doing here? It’s so good to see you!” Grace intercepted Edna at Maggie’s desk and wrapped her in a hug and Edna squeezed her like only a grandmother could. She loved Edna, too. Seems when you decide you love one person, you end up loving a whole slew of them.

Edna pulled her away to get a better look at her, just as she had done the first time they’d met.

“I thought you were beautiful the first time I met you, but look at you. You are a vision of sophistication today, my dear. Look at those shoes. Hold on,” Edna wasn’t finished admiring. “Do a little turn for me.”

Grace laughed and obeyed. As she circled, the shimmery flow of the gray skirt caught the air and floated with her as she turned. Her cropped, matching gray sweater, was just the tailored yin to the skirts’ yang.

“I bet Luke can barely keep his eyes off you when he’s strolling around here.” Edna knowingly smirked out the words when she was once again facing Grace.

“I haven’t seen him stroll, or do anything like it, around here today. Seems he’s avoiding me. It’s my fault.”

Grace received a tender pat on the cheek. “It’s nobody’s fault. Though it won’t stop me from giving that young man a good talking to. I’ll do it at lunch. He bribed me here so I could bring him something from the house. If he’s not here yet, I’d love to catch up and hear what’s going on in your world until he decides to show his handsome face.”

Edna enthusiastically said, “Nice to meet you,” to Maggie, and the two shared the perfect little hand squeeze as they parted.

“I’ll tell you, this view isn’t anything to shake a stick at.” Edna walked to the window, and Grace joined her.

“I was so proud of this office.”


“I am,” Grace admitted. “I am very proud. It was my dad’s office. I kept most of his things in place. Couldn’t get myself to move them out. I was named CFO while he was still alive and I know it’s because I was good at the job, not because he was my dad. He actually kept the company reports for that first month I was in charge of our bottom line. I found out last night.”

“That’s sweet. I would have loved to know Raymond.” Edna continued at Grace’s surprise at knowing his name, “Luke told me about him. How do you feel about it today?”

Grace softened at the thought of Luke sharing intimate details of their relationship with Edna. That he’d take the time to tell her about her dad. Luke was a good guy. Great. The best, actually.

“I’m happy my mom waited so long to give the report to me. Had she given it to me when he passed, I wouldn’t have understood its significance. He wrote me a note on the back where he circled our profit. Silly, I know, but we always circled the profit when we could genuinely agree that the number was a result of the people who worked here loving their job, not because we’d charged more for our time or added an extra hour here and there when we billed a client. We would never do that, but it was a big deal for us to believe in our team’s happiness and protect our company vision. I know that’s a long way to explain it, but ultimately, he said we’d done it, so now I can move on.”

“He was a wise man,” Edna said warmly. “Somehow, these men get us to do crazy things. Like, move us to middle-of-nowhere Minnesota. All in the name of love.”

Grace hadn’t forgotten, but she hadn’t paid enough attention to all of the people that had risked what they’d known – what was comfortable – for love. Not knowing what they would do next, but willing to figure it out.

She was good at this work. She loved it. And she could do it somewhere else if that’s what it came down to.

“It seems to me when two people are meant to be together, little else matters. I shouldn’t share our private conversations, because Luke should be telling you this himself. But Luke told me he was so taken with you when he first met you. He knew he was taking a risk by trying to start a relationship. Yet he couldn’t quite help himself. And if you know Luke, he doesn’t take risks easily, not with that stubborn old man of his. He also doesn’t take lightly to giving up an opportunity. I know he wants to find love. He must have had some kind of feeling about you.” Edna smiled sweetly at Grace, “I have found some love stories are short, but when people really work at them they can be long and beautiful. I think yours might be the latter. Not always easy, but that, too, can be a wonderful thing. Did I mention my husband moving me to the middle of nowhere? I could have killed him. But we made it and oh how we loved.” Edna chuckled fondly.

Grace’s smile turned flat as Seth walked into the room. Oh no, he had that look in his eyes. Embarrassment was already burning her cheeks.

“Edna, this is-”

Seth cut her off. It seemed more out of nervousness than rudeness, but it caught her off guard.

“I’d like to date you,” Seth practically shouted, firm and resounding. More like he was demanding it rather than suggesting. The boom of his voice caught him by surprise as much as his audience.

Oh God, she thought. And from the looks of it, he wasn’t stopping.

“I realize the other night was not what you expected,” he forged ahead.

Okay, this was getting out of hand. Grace moved toward Seth and hugged him. To comfort? Maybe. But more to try and hold his words inside and spare him – and her – the embarrassment.

“Seth,” Grace started as she pulled back slightly catching a glimpse of Luke as he looked on from the doorway.

He nodded curtly and turned. “I’ll be waiting by the door when you’re ready, Grandma.” Then Luke walked away without another word.

“Oh, come on!” Grace said, laughing out her exasperation at the chain of events.

“Seth, no, stop.” She released Seth but held off his next proclamation with a finger that nearly poked him in the nose.

“Edna, this is Seth. Seth, this is Edna. Edna is the grandmother of the man I’m in love with – who now probably thinks that I am actually dating somebody else.”

Grace didn’t give him time to register the rejection. “You are very sweet, Seth. You’re very smart. But I am not your person. You have a person somewhere.” She motioned to indicate wherever in the world that someone might be with an exhausted wave of her hand.

She should stop while she was ahead.

“Very nice to meet you, Seth,” Edna said, trying her best to be polite and not wanting to make this poor man feel more embarrassed than he needed to be. “Seth, would you mind walking me to the door, as I don’t quite remember where I turned off?”

Edna gathered Seth’s elbow in hers and let him guide her through the door. She made one final turn and shot Grace a wink on her way out.

Grace let the full laugh huff out and plopped back into her chair. Unbelievable.

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