By Design – Chapter 7

Eli looked at his watch. It was already after five-thirty. He mentally rationalized this plan with himself one last time. If nothing else, he was already here; it would be a shame to back out now.

A few people had left the building since he had shown up, but so far there had been no sign of Gracie Parker. Her contributing writer profile photo had been in the stack of information Ken had collected on the reporter for him. Now that he knew what she looked like, it would be much easier to casually bump into her outside of her office building when she left for the day. That was his plan, at least.

Eli looked up at Gracie Parker’s building, briefly wondered which floor she would be coming from, and then turned and walked a few paces away. His plan was to make it look like he was just walking toward the building as Gracie was walking out. He wanted it to look like his running into her was pure coincidence. If he could time things properly, she would never suspect he had been waiting out here for twenty minutes already.

But so far Gracie didn’t appear to be leaving the office. And Eli was starting to get anxious. Perhaps he should have looked up what time writers typically got off work, but that seemed a little much. He didn’t want to go overboard with this whole thing.

Eli waited another ten minutes before he decided it was really time to give up for the day. For all he knew, Gracie Parker didn’t even go in to work that day. He could always try again tomorrow. He glanced once more at the building, and was surprised to see a short, brown-haired girl exiting through the front door. Perfect.

Gracie was smaller than he had imagined she would be, and cuter than her business profile picture made her out to be. But none of that was important. Eli was focused. He had a job to do, and he intended to get it done.

He walked up to Gracie Parker. “Hello!” he said, putting on his friendliest smile.

Gracie tried not to jump at the voice behind her, but she didn’t do a good job of hiding her surprise. She turned and a look of shock spread across her face when she found Eli Walker standing next to her. What the hell was he doing here?

“My name is Eli Walker,” Eli offered as an introduction when Gracie didn’t reply to his initial greeting.

“I know who you are,” Gracie said, perhaps a bit too harshly. She wasn’t interested in an introduction; she was still trying to figure out why he was standing next to her. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Oh, um… Well I just happened to be passing by actually?” Somehow it didn’t come out as smoothly as Eli had hoped it would, and it didn’t seem like Gracie really believed him. He decided to change tactics. “Would you like to go to a café and chat for a bit?” Straight to the point. She seemed like someone who would appreciate that.

Gracie looked him over, suspicion written all over her face. “Not really,” she said.

Eli faltered. He hadn’t been expecting her to turn him down. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been turned down by someone from the media. And he especially couldn’t remember the last time he had been turned down by a girl. He tried to come up with something else to say, something that would make her change her mind. But nothing came to mind.

Without getting anything more from him in response, Gracie offered him a short wave good-bye, turned, and left.

Well that didn’t go anything like I meant it to. Eli scratched his head, trying to figure out where exactly he had gone wrong. Gracie Parker wasn’t like the rest of the media he had met. And she definitely wasn’t like the rest of the female media he had met. It was going to be much tougher to convince her to like him than he had anticipated. But he couldn’t give up. He was determined. What had started as a simple task had now become a challenge. And he had never been one to turn away from a challenge.

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