Page 43 of There I Find Light

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He texted her the address of the gala. He really wanted to pick her up, but he was going to be busy all day getting things ready, and he knew it was probably best that he didn’t. Noah would see that she got there okay. Franklin grinned. He couldn’t wait to see her again, and not just at the gala.

Because he would be seeing her. Not just because Noah was married to her sister Sunday, and Noah was his business partner, but because Franklin was going to make sure of it.

He was still smiling as he brought his phone down and started scrolling through his messages. It took a few minutes to check to see that there was nothing pressing, and then he went to his voicemails and started listening.

The second one was from Maisie.

“Hey, Franklin. Sorry to bother you again, but my sister just called me back. Our connection wasn’t that great, but she told me not to bother to come, that they had misdiagnosed her with malaria, when she was actually just dehydrated. I guess when they took her temperature the first time, no one shook the thermometer down, and they read 105 degrees, when she actually didn’t have a fever at all.

“Anyway, she got some fluids, and she’s home now. She is going to be able to make her plane, and she’ll be here for Christmas like we planned. I’m sorry for the back-and-forth, but I wanted to call you as soon as possible and let you know that I’m still on for the gala.

“All right, not sure where you are that you’re not answering, that’s kind of unusual, but I’ll see you tomorrow, when the city plows out from the latest snow. Oh, the joys of living in Chicagoland.” He could hear the eye roll in her voice before she hung up.

Oh boy. Now what?

He held the phone without really noticing it was in his hand as he stared at the wall, trying to figure out what in the world to do.

What was the right thing?

He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to call Maisie back immediately and tell her not to worry about it, that he was going with someone else. But if Maisie was available, that’s who he always went with. They had an understanding. She expected to be with him.

But he had asked Eleanor. Eleanor had said yes, and Eleanor was expecting to go with him.

What was he going to do? He wasn’t sure.

One thing he knew for certain was that he couldn’t go with two women. He was going to have to tell one of them that he didn’t need her. But he couldn’t figure out which one to tell.

He didn’t want to hurt either of their feelings, as a human, but as a man, Eleanor was the one that he wanted to keep happy. To make happy. To spend time with, to see her smile. To protect her. He had a fierce desire to protect her. He couldn’t believe how that had reared its head while they had been stranded together.

But more than that, he just wanted to spend time with her. And if he told her that he didn’t need her anymore, that Maisie was able to go after all, was she going to understand?

He didn’t think she would necessarily be angry, but he did think that her feelings might be hurt, and she might not be interested in going anywhere with him again. That was a risk he really didn’t want to take.

He dialed Maisie’s number.

Unfortunately, she didn’t answer. He thought about leaving a message but decided that that was something that he wanted to tell her face-to-face. If he did have to cancel, he didn’t want to hurt her feelings either. If things didn’t work out between Eleanor and him, and even if they did, he didn’t want to ruin the friendship that he had with Maisie.

As he ran through his other messages, he saw several that he needed to respond to immediately, and he realized that some of the information he needed was on his laptop in Chicago.

He had planned to stick around Strawberry Sands, maybe see if Eleanor wanted to go to the diner to have supper, but he should have known that, while he hired a company to take care of all of the planning and execution of the gala, there were a lot of things that he needed to handle as well. He didn’t know why he forgot that from year to year.

He grabbed his things, including his dirty clothes, and walked out to the parking lot, scraping the snow off his car and heading toward Chicago.

He would talk to Maisie first, make sure everything was smooth with her, and then he would see what he could do with Eleanor.

It was funny, he was someone who had not spent much time with women at all, in fact had a friend to work as his date anytime he needed her, and now he had two women for one situation. It was an awkward place to be.

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