By Design – Chapter 3

Gracie pushed a stray hair from her face as she took another glass of wine from the waiter walking by. It was a shame that she had spent so much time fixing her hair for this event only to have it start falling an hour in. Oh well. She should have known better than to think it would have happened differently.

Aside from her hair being in her eyes, there was really nothing to complain about tonight. Gracie had to admit that she was much more impressed with the show Walk on Designs had put on than she had intended to be. She had been to more of these events than she could count, so she had a pretty good feel for them. And she had to admit, Walker had gone all out on the preparations for this party. The event hall was classy, the mood lighting against the glass atrium offering a beautiful view of the night sky. The music for the evening came from a live band which was set up in one corner of the room. A few couples were dancing on the dance floor in front of the band, but most were enjoying the music as a backdrop to their conversations.

But most importantly, the food was outstanding. As someone who loved to eat, Gracie never appreciated when companies skimped on catering. It was nice to see Eli Walker shared her perspective on that point at least.

“This is absolutely amazing!” Jeff whispered into Gracie’s ear, his hand resting on her back as he spoke to her. Gracie had invited Jeff as her guest for the evening, mostly because he was the only person who she knew would be free since Colleen was busy with another event. Jeff had been one of her best friends since college, so she knew he was someone she could handle spending the evening with. Plus, she had a feeling this was something he would enjoy.

“I thought you would like it,” she said with a smile.

“I have to say, you have pretty much the best job ever,” Jeff informed her. “I wish I got to do stuff like this and get paid for it.”

“It’s not bad,” Gracie admitted. “But you don’t enjoy it as much when you’re working, I think. Too busy trying to remember all the details for your report the next morning.”

Jeff scoffed. “I’m sure I could manage it.”

Gracie couldn’t help but smile. She had been so busy lately that she hadn’t had much time to hang out with Jeff. She had forgotten how much she enjoyed it. He always managed to keep her humbled, bringing her back to reality when she needed it most. She needed someone to do that sometime to help keep her in touch with who she had been in the past. There were times when working for the magazine started to play with her head, making her feel she was losing touch with reality as she followed the extravagant lives of the elite. But Jeff wouldn’t let her forget about everyone else who existed out there… Not even while they were smack dab in the middle of the hotshots of the business world.

Speaking of which, Gracie realized she still hadn’t gotten a glimpse of the man of the hour, Mr. Eli Walker. She was sure he was around somewhere—it would be more than a slight faux pas not to attend your own event—but with everything being so busy, she hadn’t been able to spot him. She knew that as a reporter for an online socialite magazine she probably wasn’t high on his list of people to rub elbows with that night. Still, it was good manners for a host to speak to all the guests of his event. She was kind of disappointed that she hadn’t gotten the chance to meet him yet. And she knew Colleen was going to be downright devastated if she came back with nothing to report.

“Hey, isn’t that your big shot over there?” It was as if Jeff had been reading her mind. She looked up in the direction he was pointing. On the upper level of the event hall, standing against the rail of the balcony was Eli Walker.

Eli leaned against the banister as he looked down over the crowd. It wasn’t a bad turn out. The night before he had had a horrible dream that nobody had turned up. He would have never heard the end of it if he had wasted so much money on an event for no one. But the happy din of voices below assured him that the whole thing had been money well spent. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Ken arrived at Eli’s side and handed him a drink. “Job well done, sir,” he said, raising his glass in salute.

“I was just thinking the same thing myself,” Eli admitted as he sipped his wine.

“Have you made your rounds?” Ken asked.

“Still working on it,” Eli responded. If there was one thing he knew about being a good businessman it was making sure everyone felt important. Sure, some would call it rubbing elbows or brown nosing, but it was a part of the game nonetheless. “There are still a few people I need to see that I haven’t spotted yet. Help me keep an eye out for them, OK?”

“Sure thing, boss,” Ken said. And then he was gone, out among the crowd serving as the faithful representative he had proven himself to be over the last year.

Eli turned his attention back to the crowd. Yes, it had been a good year indeed. Certain that nobody was really watching him, Eli allowed himself a slight smile of self-praise. Surely on a night like tonight he had the right to feel a little proud.

Down below, Gracie couldn’t help but notice the cocky grin that crossed Eli Walker’s face as he looked down over the party attendees. She felt her blood begin to boil. With all the nice décor and the delicious food, she had started to forget what class of men Eli Walker actually belonged to. He was one of the elite. One of the young professionals who believed he was untouchable and above the rest.

What a smug bastard, Gracie thought.

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