By Design – Chapter 14

After her weekend at home, Gracie returned to work in a very good mood for a Monday morning. As worried as she had been about getting behind in her work, taking the weekend off seemed to have done her some good. For the first time in ages she felt well-rested and relaxed. Was she behind on her work? Yes, but somehow that wasn’t bothering her. At least for today it wasn’t. Her Monday morning meeting had gone well, Colleen had been sent out of the office on an assignment, so now she would be able to sit down at her desk and work undisturbed for the next several hours until lunchtime.

However, she had barely made it a half hour into her work before the phone at her desk started ringing. The noise startled her and ruined her concentration. Usually, that phone never rang without her anticipating it, the only people calling in being people she had told to contact her. But today she was pretty sure there wasn’t a single call she was waiting on.

The phone rang again.

Gracie picked up the receiver and placed it to her ear. “Gracie Parker,” she announced.

The voice on the other end of the line was a familiar one, but definitely not one she had been expecting to hear.

“Miss Parker. This is Eli Walker. I’m glad I was able to get through to you.”

Gracie felt a small panic within her and had to fight down the urge to slam the receiver back on its hook and end the call.

After her mother’s comment that first day she arrived home, it had taken so much effort to remove Eli Walker from her mind. But she had worked at it and by Monday morning she had managed to forget about him so entirely that she hadn’t thought about him once until he suddenly appeared on the other end of the line. Was it really impossible to get rid of this guy? She was starting to regret not allowing Colleen to take her place at Walker’s Year One event like she had wanted. If only it had been Collen instead of her, she would have been saved so much headache.

“I just wanted to take the time to reach out to you,” Eli said into her ear. “I noticed you seemed a bit disengaged the last time we met, and I think that may have been my fault. I wanted to make it up to you and give you an opportunity to ask any questions you didn’t get the chance to ask last time we met.”

“Are you giving all your other pet reporters this same opportunity?” Gracie knew the comment was harsh, but by this point she didn’t care. She was tired of playing games with Walker. What she wasn’t expecting was for him to admit the same thing.

“To be honest, I have no reason to meet with any of them again. I already know what they have to say. It’s your pieces that keep catching me off guard, and I would like to arrange a time for us to chat so that, hopefully, you can learn more about me and my approach to my public appearance as a young professional.”

Gracie had surely not been expecting that. She didn’t know what to say in response.

“That’s not how it works, typically,” she informed him. “Interview schedules go through my boss. I can’t just walk out on whatever I’m doing and go meet with someone on a whim.”

“Come on. You seem to be your publication’s expert on me. Do you really think your boss would want you to turn down a chance for a one-on-one interview? It’s not the kind of offer I grant frequently.”

Gracie had to admit, he had a point. She released a silent curse at being defeated by his logic. Walker sure did know how to talk his way through situations.

“Fine,” she said. “I’ll meet with you. But I don’t want this to turn into some ridiculous to do.”

“You name the time and place,” Eli said. She could hear the satisfaction in his voice and was already regretting this decision.

“There’s a café on 21st street,” she said. “I can meet with you there at noon.”

“Deal,” Eli said. “I look forward to it.”

Gracie hung up the phone and leaned back against her desk chair. She stared at her computer screen realizing the chance of her getting anything else done this morning was highly unlikely. Oh well. What would it matter if she fell just a little bit more behind? Hopefully after today this whole mess with Walker would be settled and she could get back to her life.

Gracie reached into her bag and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed Jeff. As always, he picked up after a single ring.

“Hey. I’m going to have to cancel for lunch today,” she told him.

“Everything okay?” Jeff asked.

“Yeah,” Gracie said, debating how much she wanted to tell him. “I just had something come up with work.” It turned out she didn’t really want to tell him anything at all. She realized that Walker was her problem. She needed to learn how to handle him on her own.


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