Monthly Archives: July 2015

By Design – Chapter 28

Ken looked up from his desk in the Walk on Design lobby to see a very attractive woman standing in front of him. She was dressed in a flattering yet professional red skirt and jacket. Her high heeled shoes made her legs look long and lean, yet at the same time, gave her an air of power and control. She was beautiful and confident in her appearance. And she was speaking to him.

“I am here to see Eli Walker,” the woman announced.

“Do you have an appointment?” Ken asked her.

A faint smile full of amusement played across the woman’s face. She reached into her bag and pulled out a business card. “Hand him this,” she said as she passed the card across the desk to Ken. “I am certain he will be willing to see me.”

Ken took the card and stepped into Eli’s office, unable to take his eyes off the woman as he went.

“What’s up?” Eli asked when Ken entered his office. It was rare that his assistant came to see him without reason.

“There is a strange and sensual woman standing at the front desk asking for you,” Ken informed him. He handed Eli the woman’s business card.

Eli studied the name on the card. There was a ring of familiarity to it, but he couldn’t quite place her. “Mei Chen.” He said the name aloud, hoping it might ring a bell. No luck. “Well, might as well show her in. I doubt there is any harm in that.”

Ken nodded and stepped out of the office. A few moments later, the woman entered. Ken had been right about his description of her. Strange and sensual was about as accurate as he could have gotten. But Eli tried not to let it show that her appearance was so intriguing to him.

“Welcome, Ms. Chen,” he said, adopting his business tone. “What can I do for you today?”

The woman smiled. “Oh, Eli, must we be so formal?”

Eli stared at the woman with narrowed eyes. She seemed awfully familiar with him. Was this someone he knew? He searched his mind, trying to figure out where he knew her from, but he was drawing a blank.

“Am I really that hard to remember?” Mei asked as if she had read his thoughts. Though she sounded more amused than hurt. “I guess I have changed a lot in the last fifteen years. I’m not quite as lanky now as I was when I was a child.”

Suddenly the connection clicked in Eli’s mind. He had known Mei when they were children. Their fathers had worked together until they had both branched out on their own. He and Mei had gone to school together until high school when her family had moved away.

“I didn’t recognize you,” Eli admitted. When she had been a child, Mei was thin and lanky, a bit awkward and uncoordinated. Nothing of that child seemed to remain in the woman that stood before him now.

“You, on the other hand, haven’t changed a bit,” Mei said. “You are still just as sure of yourself as you ever were.”

“What brings you here?” Eli asked as he gestured for her to take a seat.

Mei’s eyebrows went up in surprise at the question. “You mean your father didn’t tell you I was coming?”

Eli felt his heart sink in his chest. “No he didn’t,” he said. But he had a feeling this wasn’t a meeting he was going to be happy with if his father arranged it.

“Interesting,” was all Mei had to say in response. “Regardless, it seems our fathers have decided that it is near time for them to become partners again. It looks like a merger is in the works.”

Eli didn’t understand. It made since that Mei would inherit her family’s business as she had been an only child, but… “If you have come here to discuss the merger with me, I’m afraid you have come to the wrong place. I haven’t been involved in my father’s business in years. You should go talk to him and Russ instead. I can give you the address if you need it.”

Mei shook her head. “It’s not that kind of merger,” she said.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Think of it as a deal signed by blood,” she said.

Eli stared at her in response.

“A marriage. And a single heir to both corporations.”

The straightforward answer threw Eli off guard. “You mean my father is planning to marry me off for the sake of securing his business?”

Mei simply shrugged, evidently unfazed by the idea. “Stranger things have happened,” she said. “At least you are someone attractive. The way I see it, it could have been much worse.”

Was she serious? Did she—and his father for that matter—really think he would just consent to this without a word of objection? There was no way he was alright with this, and he was determined to make sure everyone knew that up front.

“Yeah, well, this is going to be impossible,” he said. “I am not going to marry you just to please my father. Sorry. It has nothing to do with you, believe me. Besides, I already have a girlfriend. And I am pretty sure she wouldn’t approve either.”

Mei shrugged and got up from her seat. “We will see,” she said as she prepared to leave. “Just keep in mind, I am not someone who is used to being told no. This is the right move for my business, as well as your family’s. When the time is right, I will make sure you are ready and willing to make this happen. Oh, and you might as well tell your current girlfriend not to get too attached. Something tells me it is not going to work out.”

She was gone before Eli could think of anything to say in response.

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By Design – Chapter 27

Colleen stared at Gracie from across the room. She had never seen somebody look so happy on a Monday morning while typing away on her computer, trying to make a deadline. The rapid change in her demeanor had been very noticeable. Colleen had been watching her since she had met Jeff in the bar. At first, Gracie hadn’t seemed any different. But then she had started acting agitated, annoyed. That agitation had only grown over the next week or so. More than once Colleen had considered just breaking down and asking her what exactly had happened between her and Walker. But she restrained from doing so. She wanted to see how this all played out without her intervention.

Then last week, Gracie had become peaceful, happy even. What had happened during that time to change her state so suddenly? Colleen couldn’t take it anymore. She had to find out what was going on with Gracie. And if Gracie wasn’t willing to offer that information up on her own, Colleen would have to force it out of her.

“Hey!” Colleen said in her most cheery voice as she sat down on the edge of Gracie’s desk.

“Oh, hey, Colleen,” Gracie replied. She kept typing. What? No scolding her for getting in the way and messing up her spread of papers?

“Think you’re going to get it in on time?” Colleen asked, tilting her head toward the screen and the project Gracie was working on.

Gracie simply shrugged. “I think I’m going to have to. The boss lady isn’t giving me much choice on the matter.”

Boss lady. That was Colleen’s phrase. Was Gracie making a joke, playing with her? That didn’t seem right; Gracie never joked about work.

“What is with you lately?” OK, so it wasn’t the most tactful way to try to pry into Gracie’s personal life, but it was at least an attention getter.

Gracie stopped her work and looked up at Colleen. “Nothing’s with me,” she said.

Colleen couldn’t help but laugh. “That is so not true,” she said. “You have been way happier doing copyediting work over the last week than most people are at Disney World. So what’s been going on?”

Gracie looked down, embarrassment creeping onto her face as her cheeks went red. Colleen had hit a soft spot. So something had happened! “Is it Walker?” she asked.

Gracie started at the mention of Eli Walker. “What would make you say that?” she asked. Colleen could see her trying to figure out just how much information she thought Colleen already knew and how much she wanted to share on the topic.

“Oh my word! You are totally dating him! And you didn’t tell me?”

“Shh!” Gracie hushed her and slapped her on the arm.

“How could you not tell me something like this?” Colleen asked.

Gracie hesitated, trying to figure out just what to say. “It’s complicated,” she said finally.

“It can’t be that complicated,” Colleen retorted. “So are you dating?”

“Maybe.” Only Gracie would be dense enough not to know for sure.

“How often are you seeing him?”

“Um, we went to dinner a couple of times last week,” Gracie said.

“Yeah, I would call that dating.” Colleen couldn’t believe it. So Jeff had been right; he did have competition. She just never would have expected Gracie to give in, not after all the fuss she had made over Walker. She should have known though. Nobody can dislike someone so adamantly for no good reason without feeling some kind of attraction to them. “What a shame. I guess your friend Jeff is out of luck then.”

Gracie wrinkled her nose. “I don’t want to talk about Jeff,” she said. Well that was an unexpected response.

“Why not?” Colleen asked.

“He has been super moody lately,” she said. “I swear, if guys had PMS…”

No wonder he is moody, Colleen thought. You’re tearing a hole in his heart. But maybe it’s a hole someone else will be able to fill.

Gracie’s phone buzzed and she reached into her purse to fish it out. Colleen had to crane her neck to see that the message was from Eli Walker. A smile settled onto Gracie’s face as she read the message.

“I have to go,” she said, saving her work and picking up her purse. “Don’t touch any of my stuff while I’m gone.” She left before Colleen could think of anything to say in response.

It was funny, really, seeing Gracie act like a girl in love. Colleen would have never expected it from her. Gracie had never been one to change her mind after she had made a decision about anything. She had hated Walker so openly that Colleen never would have thought there would be a chance for them.

Funny how people change, she thought.

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By Design – Chapter 26

Gracie twined her fingers together and held her hands firmly in front of her to try to keep them from shaking. She couldn’t help but feel nervous. She had never been to Walk On Design before, and she was afraid that she was going to look really out of place there. Once she stepped off the elevator, it didn’t take long to find the office space that belonged to Walker’s business.

“Um… Excuse me,” Gracie said to the man sitting at the front desk.

He looked up at her with gray eyes under a mop of brown hair. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“I was hoping I could speak to Eli Walker.” Gracie knew it was a bold of her to just show up here unannounced. There was a good chance Walker was busy and couldn’t see her and she had just wasted her time. Perhaps she should have called ahead. But that would have given him the chance to reject her visit outright, and she really couldn’t handle that.

“Do you have an appointment?” the assistant asked. He had a confused look on his face as he flipped through the pages of a date book, evidently fearing he had forgotten to write something down.

“No,” Gracie admitted, hoping to calm him some. “I’m from a local publication. Mr. Walker and I met a few weeks back, and I was hoping for a follow-up interview to clear up a few remaining questions.” She handed the assistant her business card to try to make her lie seem more legitimate.

The assistant’s eyes went wide as he read the name on the card. He pushed his seat back and stood up all in one motion. “Miss Parker!” he exclaimed. “Give me one moment. I’ll let him know you’re here.” He trotted off behind a door, leaving Gracie alone in the foyer.

Well that was a bit odd, Gracie thought. The assistant had seemed startled by her business card. Did that mean he knew something about her or her company? No. Surely not. It was just because she was from the media. Businessmen were always getting out of sorts when the media was around. There was no reason for her to be nervous about his reaction.

He reappeared a moment later. “Miss Parker, Mr. Walker said he is able to work you in now,” he said. He opened the door wider and gestured for her to lead the way inside.

Inside, Eli Walker was sitting behind his desk. He looked surprised to see her, but like he was trying really hard not to look surprised by it.

“Is there anything else I can get for you?” his assistant asked behind her.

“We’re fine, Ken,” Eli informed him. “Shut the door on your way out.”

Once Ken had left, Eli stood up from his desk and came around to the front of it. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Um…” Suddenly, Gracie felt very self-conscious. What was she doing here? This had been a stupid idea. She should have just waited for him to contact her if he was still interested.

“My assistant said you were here for some follow-up questions to an interview, but I know that’s not true since we never managed a real interview.” Eli looked a bit amused. Did he find her presence laughable?

“It’s kind of true,” Gracie said in her own defense. “It might not have been an interview per se that I had follow-up questions for, but I definitely have some outstanding questions I would like answers to.”

Eli frowned. How long had it been since they had gone out, he wondered. A couple of weeks at least. Was that it? Was she here because he had never called her back after their date that was never officially a date? In truth, he had meant to contact her afterwards, but that was the week everything in his life had suddenly become complicated. He had spent all of the last two weeks dealing with the lawyers who were handling the copyright lawsuit. When he wasn’t talking to lawyers, he was trying to help Russ, who was going through his own mental breakdown. Ever since their father’s dinner announcement, Russ had fallen into a funk. He had been sulking like a child for over a week, and Eli couldn’t help but feel at least partially responsible.

Still, even with all of that going on in the background, it was nice to see her. Perhaps Gracie Parker could give him a break from everything else in his life, if only for an hour or so.

“I would be glad to answer any questions you have,” he said with a smile. “How about we go out and get a cup of coffee.” He was already reaching for his jacket on the back of his chair.

“Oh. Okay.” Gracie hadn’t expected him to be so easy. She couldn’t help but wonder if he really understood why she had come here. He, apparently, didn’t think the two week silence had been something to worry about. Perhaps she had over reacted after all.

“By the way, it’s good to see you,” Eli said. He casually placed his hand on her back and led her through the door of his office and out of the building.

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By Design – Chapter 25

Try as she might, Gracie just could not fall asleep. Instead, she lay in bed wide awake, Eli Walker racing through her mind.

It had been almost two weeks since their unexpected dinner date. She didn’t know why she was keeping track of such things. She kept trying to remind herself that the evening hadn’t been anything of importance to her. They had never really even said it was a date. It was just dinner. But it wasn’t a business dinner; that was certain. So what had it been?
She couldn’t believe that such a trivial thing was keeping her up all night. And this wasn’t the first time the thought of her dinner with Eli Walker had prevented her from sleeping either. She didn’t want to admit it, but she was starting to feel anxious. After all, it had almost been two whole weeks and she hadn’t heard a single word from Walker in all that time. It was starting to bother her.

This was a man who she hadn’t been able to get rid of for the last several months, and now, after she had finally given in to him, he had suddenly disappeared from her life. What was more, she couldn’t figure out why she even cared. Wasn’t this what she had wanted all along, for Eli Walker to disappear? So why couldn’t she get to sleep?

She rolled over in bed and stared up at the ceiling. Had she done something wrong that would have prevented him from wanting to see her again? She tried to think back to the night of their dinner. From what she could recall, they both seemed to have a good time. They were laughing and joking, being much friendlier than they had ever been in the past. It was possible Eli had been faking it all, but he had seemed so sincere. Perhaps she had done something to make him lose interest in her, but she couldn’t think of what that could have been.

She sighed and turned back onto her side. He’s just busy, she told herself. He does have a fast growing company to run. It’s not like he has time to just sit around all day thinking about calling you.

Gracie was surprised at herself. Did she even want Walker to call her? If he asked her out again, would she say yes? The question was enough to send Gracie’s mind reeling. She didn’t even know why she was pretending by continuing to lie in bed. There was no way she was going to get to sleep any time soon. Once again, Eli Walker had managed to throw her day all out of sorts.

One thing was certain: she was definitely going to hear it from Colleen if word ever got around to her that she had been on a date with Eli Walker. Truth be told, Gracie had a feeling Colleen already knew. She kept giving her weird, sideways smiles and nudging her and winking. She hadn’t said anything outright, but she looked like she was trying really hard to hold in a secret that she was dying to share. Gracie had no idea how Colleen could have found out about her dinner with Eli. She certainly hadn’t told anybody about it, and she doubted Colleen had spoken to Eli.

Gracie thought back to her and Colleen’s first conversation about Eli Walker. It had been months ago when she had received the assignment of attending his Year One Celebration. Colleen had praised him so highly based on his looks alone. She hadn’t been all that wrong to do so. He was a handsome man. There was no denying that. But she hadn’t been the only one to express such flattery. It seemed like no one ever had anything bad to say about him.

And then Gracie came along. She had only done her job. She had expressed her true feelings, just as she had always done. But now she was having second thoughts. Perhaps she had judged him too harshly upon their first encounter. He had to have been under a lot of pressure that night; he didn’t have time to talk to everyone there. Maybe she had simply been unwilling to give him the chance he deserved initially. And now, all because of that stupid article, Eli had started to doubt himself.

It wasn’t a good feeling, doubting. She was beginning to figure that out as she tried once again to fall asleep.

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