By Design – Chapter 31

Gracie was barely halfway back to her office after meeting with Russ Walker before she was unexpectedly approached by a woman in a red skirt and jacket with matching heels.

“Can I help you?” Gracie asked when the woman stopped in front of her with the obvious intent of blocking her way.  She wasn’t a tall woman, not much taller than Gracie, really, but her presence definitely demanded attention.  She was beautiful, with long black hair and brown eyes, soft in color but hard as they looked Gracie up and down. They made Gracie feel like she was a child being scrutinized by a parent who already knew exactly what she had done wrong and was testing her to see if she was going to be honest about it.

The woman’s smile was not reassuring. This woman was someone confident, borderline cocky. Gracie didn’t feel good about the fact she had taken an interest in her.

The woman held out her hand. “My name is Mei Chen,” she said, her cold smile firmly in place.

Hesitantly, Gracie reached out and took her hand. “Gracie Parker.”

“I must be honest, Ms. Parker, you are not what I was expecting,” Mei said, amused.

Now Gracie really was concerned. Did she know this woman from somewhere? Mei certainly seemed to know her, or at least to know about her, which might be even worse.

It wasn’t difficult for Gracie to play dumb in this situation considering she sincerely felt she had no clue what was going on. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Have we met before?”

Mei’s smile broadened, her face becoming colder in the process, if that was even possible. “We have not,” she told Gracie. “I am actually only interested in you tangentially. See, you seem to be a road block in my way of achieving something I am after.”

Gracie studied Mei, suspicious and a bit confused. “I think you might have me mistaken with someone else,” she said. “Considering we’re just meeting for the first time today, I am quite confident I am not standing in your way of anything.” As if to emphasize this point, Gracie stepped to the side and gestured to the open sidewalk in front of Mei.

Mei laughed. Her laugh was annoying, even colder and cockier than her smile. “You misunderstand,” she said. Obviously. “What I am interested in is Eli Walker.”

Gracie felt herself stiffen at the mention of Eli. Russ had been right! This woman was quick and scary. How had she tracked Gracie down so quickly?

“I don’t know how much you know about Eli and his family,” Mei continued. “But the truth is, they are very important people, big business owners with lots of money. There are expectations on Eli, including that he stay within his own social circle when it comes to relationships.”

Gracie couldn’t be certain, but it sounded like Mei was calling her low class. “Look,” she said. “I don’t know how things are done where you come from, but in my social circles, a grown man has the right to date whoever he damn well pleases. Besides, Eli has his own business now. He doesn’t have to play by his family’s rules.”

Mei’s expression only hardened at Gracie’s words. “If only it were that simple,” she said with a sneer. “Well, don’t say you haven’t been warned.” She pushed past Gracie and continued along the sidewalk as if she hadn’t just threatened Gracie and her relationship.

Gracie stared after her for a moment. Was this chick serious? One thing Russ had gotten right, she was intimidating. Mei Chen was definitely someone who was used to getting her way. There was a part of Gracie that wondered if she was really any threat against a woman that confident and determined.


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