By Design – Chapter 37

The bar where they first met had become the designated meeting place for Colleen and Jeff. They didn’t meet too frequently, and every time they did, Gracie was their main topic of discussion, but Colleen enjoyed their meeting all the same. Each time she met with Jeff, she found herself more and more attracted to him. He was a better man than he gave himself credit for, and Colleen frequently found herself wishing she could see more of him under different circumstances.

Tonight, Colleen found herself telling Jeff about the fundraiser that Randall Chen had hosted. She told Jeff about Eli and Gracie standing up to Mei Chen in front of the entire guest list, and Gracie subsequently being forced by their boss to take some time off. Gracie had never told Colleen the whole story, but Colleen had managed to piece it together after talking to a few people. She had to admit that she had been quite impressed by her friend’s courage.

Jeff, on the other hand, seemed much less excited by this play of events. He mentioned that he hadn’t heard from Gracie in a while. “I just figured she was busy with work,” he said. “Do you think I should try to go by her apartment and check on her?”

“No,” Colleen said after thinking about it for a moment. “Gracie will let us know if she wants our company. Until then, I think it’s best if we give her some space. She seemed pretty upset when she left the office last week. Better give her some time to cool down.” What she didn’t mention was she didn’t want to see Jeff throwing himself at her friend all over again. He should just stay here with me instead.

Jeff took a sip of his beer. “I can’t believe she’s letting herself get into trouble like this over someone like Eli Walker,” he said. “I just don’t understand what she sees in him.”

Colleen couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s probably his looks, his money, his demeanor. Take your pick. That guy has got everything going for him.”

Jeff wrinkled his nose in response to Colleen’s statement.

“It doesn’t mean other guys don’t have things going for them too,” Colleen assured him, realizing her words had probably been a bit insensitive.

They both drank in silence for a moment. Though Colleen came here under the pretense that she would keep Jeff updated on Gracie in the hopes of getting the two of them together eventually, Gracie was not what Colleen was interested in talking with him about. Her motives had changed, and what she was interested in now was knowing more about Jeff.

“So what are your plans for the weekend?” Colleen asked him.

Jeff raised an eyebrow at her. “Why?” he asked.

Colleen shrugged and took another drink, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. “Just curious,” she said. “I was thinking of going to the shore on Saturday. Would you be interested?”

Jeff just stared at her a moment, as if trying to decide if it was a serious offer.  When he realized it was, he stumbled over his response. “Uh, I, um, I don’t know…”

“Oh, come on,” Colleen said. “It’s just an afternoon. Surely I’m not so unbearable that you can’t spend even that much time in my company.”

Jeff’s face went red, obviously embarrassed that he had given off the impression that he didn’t like her. “Sure,” he agreed. “I’ll go.”

“Great!” Colleen said, perking up a bit at his words.

It was weird how she looked forward to seeing him again already when she hadn’t even left his side tonight. She tried to think back, but she couldn’t ever remember feeling this way about a guy before. Usually her interest in guys was only surface level interest. Jeff was the first guy she had ever met that had given her a desire to dig deeper. She just hoped that she could eventually convince him to feel the same way about her.

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