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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