By Design – Chapter 23

The bar was only a block from the office, and Colleen headed there as soon as she got off the clock. Gracie had left early that day, so it looked like tonight she would be drinking alone. But that wouldn’t last long. She had always been very good at making friends when she was on her own.

She entered the building and scanned the room, trying to decide the most ideal place to sit, somewhere she could grab the attention of others and start up a conversation. What she wasn’t expecting to find as she looked around was a very familiar looking man already sitting at the bar sipping on a drink. He was all dressed up, as if he had been preparing for a night out. However, his expression suggested that his plans hadn’t gone as he had hoped they would. Colleen couldn’t help but feel he looked like he needed some company. She walked to the bar and took a seat next to him.

“Hello, there!” she said, trying her best to sound cheerful. He looked at her blankly. “You probably don’t remember me, do you?”

He thought a moment before replying. “I met you at the magazine office,” he said, recognition dawning on his face. “You’re Gracie’s friend. I don’t remember your name though.”

“Colleen,” she said.

“Colleen. That’s right. I’m Jeff.”

“I remember,” Colleen said with a smile. How could she have forgotten? “So what’s the occasion?” she asked, pointing to the drink in his hand.

“A date gone wrong,” he admitted a bit too readily. Colleen wondered how many of those he had already downed before she arrived. “I should have known better.”

Colleen frowned. “Was it really that bad?”

Jeff sighed. “To be honest, it’s Gracie.”

Colleen recalled her conversation with Gracie after she told her about Jeff’s visit. Gracie had told her Jeff was interested in her but that she had no interest in him, at least not in dating him. But Colleen couldn’t tell Jeff all of this, especially not when he was so down.

It was a shame, really, Colleen mused to herself, that a man like this was so hung up on a girl that wasn’t going to give him the time of day. He seemed nice, and he was pleasant to look at. He was the kind of guy Colleen would definitely be willing to give a chance. He wasn’t her typical type, but there was something about him she found herself attracted to. However, there was no way he would be willing to give her the same chance while he was so preoccupied with Gracie.

“Gracie’s not really the dating kind,” she said, trying to sooth his wound.

Jeff snorted contemptuously. “If only that were true,” he said. “Unfortunately, the reason my night is ending like this is because she accepted an offer from someone else before I got there.”

This was news to Colleen. “Who?” she asked, perking up.

“Eli Walker.”

There was no way! “Gracie doesn’t even like Walker,” Colleen said.

Jeff shrugged. “I’m just telling you what I saw.”

“You actually saw them together?” Colleen couldn’t believe it. Though she was dying to know more, she could tell it wasn’t something Jeff really wanted to talk about.

This guy really was having a rough day. Colleen knew there was nothing she could do to improve his mood, but she figured she could at least try.

“Look,” she said. “There’s no way Gracie seriously dates Eli Walker. For all we know, their evening tonight was completely business related. How about this: I can keep an eye on that relationship and keep you updated. If there is a chance for you and Gracie, I can help you get that.”

Jeff eyed her, unconvinced. “Why would you do that?” he asked.

It gives me an excuse to stay in contact with you. “Believe me, I want to see Gracie end up with someone nice just as much as anyone. And after her experiences with Walker, I don’t think he is the guy.”

Perhaps it wasn’t so nice of her to be scheming like this, but what she really wanted was a reason to meet with Jeff again, hopefully with him in a better mood. She knew Gracie was unlikely to reconsider her stance on Jeff, but perhaps after the two of them got to know each other a bit more, Jeff would reconsider his stance on Colleen, and maybe even start to forget his feelings toward Gracie.

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