Monthly Archives: October 2015

By Design – Chapter 41

Eli read over the notice one more time, just to be sure. The amount of relief he felt at the words on the page was more than he ever could have imagined simple black text could create. He could have kissed Ken for bringing him such good news, but he refrained.

“So that’s it then. The case is settled.”

“It’s settled,” Ken assured him. “The other party agreed to the terms we presented. The paper work has already been submitted. Now it is just one less thing we have to worry about. And now we can move past it and start looking to the future.”

“The future,” Eli agreed. He mused over the idea. The future had always been something that frightened him, from worrying that he would one day turn into his father to worrying that his business wouldn’t survive. But his outlook had changed a lot over the last year. The future had a lot in store for him, he realized now. It had more possibilities waiting for him than he ever would have dared hope for.

“Ken, I was thinking this news deserves a celebration,” Eli told his assistant.

“A celebration?” Ken seemed surprised by the idea.

“Of course. I think we owe it to our loyal customers and partners to thank them for sticking with us throughout all of this and believing that we would get it resolved.”

Ken nodded slowly as he contemplated the idea. “That’s not a bad idea, actually,” he said. “I think they would all appreciate the recognition and the gratitude.”

“Check our schedule for next month,” Eli told him. “I think a thank you event in time for the holidays would be a perfect gift for our supportive network.”

“I agree,” Ken said. “A thank you for the holidays would be perfect.” He left Eli’s office to begin working on the preparations.

As Ken left, Eli reclined in his chair, feeling rather content with himself. It was an excellent plan, Eli realized. This party was exactly what he needed. Their customers and partners would appreciate his time and effort toward them, raising his company’s image even more. But that wasn’t his only reason for wanting to bring everybody together. Eli has something else brewing in the back of his mind.

Inside his top right desk drawer was a small box. A box for Gracie. And he wanted as many people as possible to be present when he gave it to her.

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By Design – Chapter 40

Colleen took a deep breath before entering the bar where she was scheduled to meet Jeff. She was nervous, she realized. She hated the feeling of being nervous. She knew she had to do this, but she was afraid of how he would react. That was what made her so nervous. She had gone over the situation again and again in her mind. She had tried to find a flaw in it; she had tried to find a way to see it not working out; she had tried to find anything that would make it something not worth mentioning. But it was impossible. From what she could see, Gracie Parker and Eli Walker were perfect for each other. And nothing would ever change that. She had to tell Jeff.

Of course she had first tried to find a way around it, but in the end she realized there was no other option. Jeff deserved to know the truth. He deserved to know that any future attempts to gain Gracie’s attention would be a waste of time. He deserved to be able to move on with his life. She just wished she didn’t have to be the one to break it to him. But there was no one else.

So, building up her courage, and trying not to let her nerves show on her face, Colleen pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Jeff was sitting at a small table near the back of the room. She slipped into the seat across from him and tried her best to appear cheerful. However, she found it was hard to maintain a smile when she knew the news she was bringing him was likely to break his heart.

“I have to tell you something about Gracie,” Colleen said, her voice flat and unexcited. It wasn’t the way she had meant to start the question, but now that she was facing him, she decided it would be better to simply cut to the chase instead of trying to sugar coat it.

“Me first,” Jeff said. He voice sounded almost as unenthused as her own. For a moment, Colleen was worried that someone else had beaten her to the punch and Jeff already knew about Gracie’s sincere commitment to Eli.

What she was not expecting were the words that followed. “I haven’t really thought about Gracie all week,” Jeff told her.

Colleen lowered her eyebrows as she glared at him. “Excuse me?”

Jeff laughed. Was it nerves in him that she was sensing in the sound of that laugh? But that seemed unlikely.

“Yeah. I haven’t thought about her all week. There was something else taking up all that space in my mind.”

“Oh? And what was that?”

“I kept thinking, I can’t wait for Thursday evening, because then I get to go out with Colleen.”

Colleen blinked. The world refused to come into focus. She blinked again. Had she really just heard him correctly? “So you are saying that the time you usually spend thinking about Gracie was instead spent thinking about me?” She tried not to let herself get her hopes up. Somehow this sounded too good to be true.

Jeff laughed again. It was definitely nerves she sensed this time. “That sounds pretty crazy, right? I haven’t not thought about Gracie for this long since we were in college. I had begun to think it wasn’t possible.”

“So, what do you think this means?” Colleen asked. She knew what she hoped it meant, but she wanted to hear him confirm it.

“I think it means I have someone else I need to start directing my attention toward instead,” Jeff told her. “And perhaps this woman will be someone who is able to return my feelings.” He reached across the table and took Colleen’s hand in his own.

Colleen tried to keep herself from gushing, but just like that, she felt her evening becoming a whole lot better than she had anticipated it being.

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By Design – Chapter 39

When Eli entered Gracie’s office building, he knew he was overstepping his bounds. Though by how much was still to be seen. Even so, he felt this was something he had to do.

Colleen recognized him as soon as he walked through the door. “What are you doing here?” she asked him.

“I need to talk to your boss,” Eli told her.

Colleen frowned. “This doesn’t sound like it’s going to be good.”

Eli only shrugged. “I hope it will be,” he assured her. “But I’m not promising I’m going to play nice.”

Colleen led Eli back to the boss’ office. She wasn’t busy at the moment, and she welcomed Eli in immediately.

“Welcome!” she said as she offered him a seat. “It’s not often we have hot shot socialites visiting us. It’s usually the other way around. What can I do for you, Mr. Walker?”

“I would like to talk to you about one of your employees,” Eli said. “Ms. Gracie Parker.”

The woman frowned. “I know she said some pretty harsh things about you in the past,” she said. “Understand that it is not our job to protect the image of anyone but ourselves. Our articles are written to represent the actual observations of our team, whether good or bad. That being said, Ms. Parker has formed a habit of acting out lately. It might comfort you to know that we have noticed this and she has currently been suspended. I hope that you won’t harbor bad feelings toward her or us for the things she said.”

“It’s actually the suspension I want to talk to you about,” Eli said. “I think there might have been a misunderstanding which led you to make that decision, and I think it might have been my fault.”

Colleen sat outside the office with her ear pressed against the door, trying to hear what was being discussed inside. It was no use though. The voices were too muffled to make out what was being said. Still, there were only a handful of topics Eli Walker could possibly want to discuss with their magazine, some of them professional, others personal. With Eli’s businesslike manner, it had been difficult to tell which he had come in for as she had led him through the office.

However, Colleen didn’t have to wait long to find out what had occurred on the other side of the closed door. She stood up at the door opened and Eli walked out of the office. Though she had tried to make it look like she hadn’t been snooping, it was obvious she had been.

“How much did you hear?” Eli asked.

“Not much of anything,” Colleen answered honestly. “It turns out these walls are thicker than I gave them credit for.”

Eli nodded. “It’s probably better that way.” He started for the door, and then turned around again. “I hope you’ll be willing to welcome Gracie when she returns next week?”

Colleen’s eyes widened. “She’s coming back?”

“As long as she wants to,” Eli said.

As he walked out of the office, Colleen had to admit she was impressed. There was no telling what threats he had made to get Gracie her job back, but Colleen was glad he had made them. She had missed her friend over the last couple of weeks.

Though she never would have believed it in the beginning, it wasn’t hard to see that Eli Walker was just the kind of guy Gracie needed; he was willing to go all the way to the edge for her. Colleen was glad Gracie had managed to find someone like that.

What she didn’t relish was the idea of having to tell Jeff that he really just needed to hang it up. There was no way he would ever be able to compete with Walker when it came to Gracie. He would be heartbroken, she realized. Still, if he could accept it, if he could admit defeat and give Gracie up for good, it might leave Colleen the opening she needed to get him to notice her.

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By Design – Chapter 38

Eli could only hope the address Colleen had given him was correct. It would be a bit embarrassing to show up at the wrong place. It had taken a lot of effort to get the information out of her, along with everything else he had forced from her the day before, but she had eventually given it up. He trusted she was telling him the truth.

“I’m glad you are doing this,” she admitted in the end. “It lets me know you actually care about her, and that’s the kind of guy Gracie needs right now.”

After much pestering, Colleen had told him everything that had happened since he had last seen Gracie the day after the Chen family’s fundraiser. He had been so worried when she had stopped taking his calls and responding to his messages. He hadn’t understood what would cause her to act that way. She had seemed in such a good mood after their victory over Mei Chen that it didn’t seem likely that she would give up on him so soon afterwards.

He had gone to her apartment the day before talking to Colleen, but she hadn’t answered the door. When he had spoken to the building manager, the man said he hadn’t seen Gracie in a couple of days. In his concern for her, Eli knew finding Colleen was his only option. She seemed to always know everything that was going on with everybody.

Eli was now on his way into the suburbs, to the address Colleen had given him for Gracie’s parents’ house. It was the house Gracie had grown up in, Colleen informed him. And it was where she always went when she felt like the city was becoming too much for her.

The neighborhood was a quaint, upper-middle class neighborhood with row upon row of houses displaying clean-cut yards and white picket fences. Eli turned into the drive of the house that belonged to Gracie’s family and rang the doorbell.

A woman in her fifties, dressed in slacks and a blouse, her hair held back in a clip, opened the door. She stared at Eli a moment as if she was not quite sure what to make of him.

“Mrs. Parker?” Eli asked.

“I am,” the woman said. “And who might you be?”

“My name is Eli Walker,” Eli said. “I was told that Gracie might be found here.”

“Who is it, Ma?” Gracie’s voice floated through the open doorway as Gracie came up behind her mother. When she saw Eli, she stopped dead in her tracks, her mouth hanging open in shock. All Eli could do was smile back at her.

“Eli!” she screeched when she found her voice again. “What are you doing here?” She grabbed him around the wrist and pulled him into the house, closing the door behind them.
Eli was not unaware of the blush that rose to Gracie’s cheeks. She was embarrassed at his being there, flustered that he had found her while she didn’t want to be found. But he refused to be sorry for that—he was just glad to see her alive and well. “I was worried about you when I couldn’t get hold of you the last couple of days,” Eli told her. “You just sort of disappeared. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“Ma, could we have a minute alone please?” Gracie asked her mother before allowing the conversation to any further.

Gracie’s mother allowed her daughter some privacy, though Gracie knew there was going to be a slew of questions to answer later. Gracie led Eli into the den in the house and closed the door behind them so that they could talk without being overheard.

“You should have told me you were coming here,” Gracie said.

“And have you tell me to stay in the city? I don’t think so.”

Gracie knew he was right. She would have done everything she could to prevent him from coming.

“Why did you leave, anyway?” Eli asked her.

Gracie sighed. “I assume you already know a bit of what happened considering you knew to find me here. I just… I don’t know about my job anymore. Recently it is like it has become something I never intended it to be. I feel lost at work a lot of time, like there is a fine moral line that I’m not allowed to cross, but I can’t quite get a grasp of where it is. And I find myself disregarding my own moral beliefs to try to stay on the right side of this line. And when I do accidentally cross over it, it is like I’ve committed a horrible sin against the social world, even if I was just stating my honest opinion, which is what I thought I was hired to do in the first place.”

Eli listened to her concerns with devout attention. He realized her struggles at work ran deeper than this latest incident, but how deep was impossible to tell. Could it be that her doubts had started with the report on him?  “I think we all have those moments in our work,” he said when she had finished. “Those moments when we wonder whether our work and our personal lives are still compatible. And we have to make a decision. We either find a way to make the two fit together, or we start looking for a new job. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of dealing with the situation. I think you have to do whatever is best for you. But if you want my opinion, I think you are very good at what you do. And I am sorry my actions have gotten you in trouble and have caused you to doubt yourself.”

“Thanks,” Gracie said. “I’m glad to know you have my back on this.”

“Always,” Eli told her. “So what do you say? Will you come back to the city with me? We miss you there. At least, I miss having you there.”

Gracie turned her eyes to the ceiling, as if she was thinking hard about his offer, but she was already smiling. “I guess I could do that,” she said, a bit playfully.

Eli smiled. He liked seeing her in this kind of mood.

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