By Design – Chapter 19

Jeff checked his reflection in the mirror. It was far from perfect, that was certain. But it would have to do.

He had gotten off work early after finishing a major project and had come straight home to shower. Work had been hard and he had worked up more of a sweat than he was comfortable with. While he was cleaning up, he came up with a great idea. A new restaurant had opened nearby. It was one Gracie had mentioned wanting to try last week when they went by it. Tonight would be as good as any for giving it a try.

As soon as he had gotten out of the shower, Jeff had dialed the restaurant and made a reservation. Gracie had had a lot going on lately. A surprise dinner was something she would definitely be up for. It would help her unwind and forget about work—and Walker—for a while. That seemed to be just what she needed.

After the reservation had been made, Jeff played the scenario through in his head. He had everything planned out. This would be a surprise for Gracie. He would meet her in the lobby of her building. He shouldn’t show up empty handed. He would stop on the way there and pick something up for her. Flowers? Candy? No. Something a bit more personal. He would leave early to give himself time to find the right thing.

She would be surprised to see him there; that would be a given. He considered calling her and letting her in on his plan for dinner. He would hate for her to unknowingly pick tonight to stay late at the office and catch up on work. But he decided against it. If she knew that he planned to take her out, she would say no. She always said no. Perhaps she hoped that if she said no enough, he would eventually give up. But that wasn’t going to happen. He refused to let that happen. So he decided not to tell her. She would be a bit upset by the surprise, but she would still say yes. After everything was all set up, she would feel bad to say no. It was something he had learned about her over the years.

Jeff checked his reflection one more time. It was the same. He was going to have to be content with it. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He felt himself getting nervous. Why was it that, after all this time, he still got nervous every time he was planning to meet with Gracie? He should be over those first date jitters by now. But perhaps it was because they had never officially had a first date. Any time they went out together could turn into their first date. It was what he kept hoping for. But he knew he couldn’t make it too obvious. He forced himself to take a few more deep breaths to calm himself. He looked down at his watch. He needed to get going if he didn’t want to miss her as she was leaving her building for the day.

She was going to enjoy this, he told himself. Everything was going to be great.

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