Love Incorporated
By Elena Lane
Date: July 23, 2021
Ch. 33

Tabitha went off to greet the circle of friends that she had known since they were kids. A lot of them were cousins or other relatives, but others, like Jared, were sons or daughters of unrelated employees at Collins & Collins. Tabitha glanced at Jared. It was strange; she had never really noticed him before. Of course, she knew who he was and had been around him all her life. However, that didn’t mean she knew his interests or personality. In fact, Tabitha had never had any interest in Jared before, but that night, she began to look at him with new eyes.

She immediately noticed that Jared was easy on the eye. He was the classic vision of an attractive man: tall, dark and handsome. His chocolatey hair fell in waves, just above his deep brown eyes that appeared to be almost black. He had always been handsome, but he looked especially debonair in his tux. This was the man that her fathers wanted Tabitha to date and honestly, she couldn’t complain. The only problem was that she couldn’t believe that he was single. A guy like Jared had to have a girlfriend! Or maybe he just wasn’t the girlfriend type. Tabitha didn’t know, but she did know that she couldn’t take his eyes off of Jared.

Tabitha finally tore her eyes away from Jared when she heard the voice of her best friend-slash- cousin, Carrie Collins. “Whatcha looking at, Tabby Cat?” Carrie asked lightly. Tabitha hated being called Tabby, but for some reason, when Carrie added cat to the end, it made the nickname less repulsive.

“Nothing,” Tabitha mumbled, pulling Carrie into a hug.

“Don’t give me that, Tabitha,” Carrie scolded, teasingly. “I saw you looking at Jared. I’m just a little surprised. You’ve never seemed interested before. Though, I don’t blame you; he’s H-O-T. Smart too. I’d take a guy like that any day.”

“My dads suggested that I get to know him better. They want us to get together. Probably hoping that someday we’ll get married, but I can’t think that far ahead. No way; I am so not ready for marriage. Anyway, I told them that I’d talk to him and then I noticed how good looking and debonair he looks. Now, I can’t stop looking and even though I’ve known him since we were kids, I’m actually nervous to talk to him.”

“Woah,” started Carrie with a giggle, “Slow down Tabby Cat; you’re rambling.”

Tabitha took a deep breath, “My point is now that I realize I like him, I feel awkward talking to him.”

Carrie shrugged nonchalantly. She was an expert on boys and dating. Tabitha could always rely on her cousin for good advice, “I’ll help you,” she said happily, pulling Tabitha towards Jared. “Think of me as your training wheels. I’ll help you get the conversation started, but once you get going, I’ll skedaddle and leave you two love birds to talking.”

“Please don’t leave,” Tabitha said quietly as we got near to where Jared was standing.
Carrie gave her hand a squeeze, “You’ll be fine,” she said with confidence enough for both of them. Then, she laughed lightly, “And if you’re not, I’ll be here to put you back together.”

Tabitha gave Carrie a groan and opened her mouth to give Carrie a response, but she found herself face to face with Jared and quickly clamped her mouth shut. “Tabitha!” Jared spoke, pulling her into a hug. “It’s so good to see you,” he said and then turned to Carrie giving her a small hug as well adding, “It’s good to see you too Carrie. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I feel like I haven’t seen you two since I was senior in high school and you too were what? Sophomores?”

Tabitha nodded while Carrie said, “Yes.” Then Carrie said, “Yes, it certainly has been a while, but from what I hear you’re doing very well at Stanford. Tabitha’s a Brown girl. I don’t know how she stands living in Rhode Island. I myself prefer warmer places, but to each his own, I suppose.”

“Brown? Interesting choice. Though, definitely a good school. Have you decided your major yet?”

Tabitha nodded, “Business.” It may have seemed like a choice pushed upon Tabitha by her parents, but that wasn’t the case. They had encouraged her to try other things and told her that they had no intention of forcing her to take over the family business if that was not what she wanted. However, the company had always been of great interest to Tabitha and someday, she wanted to continue the family legacy.

“Cool,” Jared said lighting up, “I myself am more into the boring finance stuff, but it all kind of runs together a little bit, doesn’t it?”

“Yes,” Tabitha agreed, “it takes all kinds of talent to keep a business running. I have to be aware of all the factors, which I think would be a nice challenge. I’ve always liked puzzles and finding solutions. So, I think it’s a good fit and I’m hoping to keep the family business in the family. It’s basically my whole life so I couldn’t very well give it up. I love Collins & Collins and I want my children to be able to inherit the same legacy I did.” From there, Jared and Tabitha got into a deep conversation and with a nudge, Carrie left them to talk. Jared was a cool guy and Tabitha was certain that she wanted to get better acquainted with him. She was busy chatting away with Jared when she saw a text from a number that she didn’t recognize. Though, it didn’t take much effort for her to figure out who had sent it. She read the text:

Looking good, Tabby ;)

It was Braxton Decker… who else could it be? Tabitha looked over to where he was sitting and quickly snapped her head away when she met his eyes. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of getting to her, but Braxton didn’t give up.

I’m lonely over here by my lonesome.

Tabitha answered begrudgingly,

What happened to Kenzie? I thought you two were besties.

She rolled her eyes at his response,

Do I sense jealousy?

Tabitha could nearly hear the mockery in Braxton’s tone and it vexed her.

Not at all, Decker.

Tabitha wanted nothing to do with Braxton and that was that. He was an irredeemable wild child. Tabitha needed order in her life, not chaos.

Come over here and we can talk.

Tabitha sighed, resigned.


She walked over to Braxton, unamused and frustrated by the smirk upon his lips. Maybe if she talked to him, she could get him to leave her alone. She stood by his chair, arms crossed against her chest, unamused expression in her eyes. “What do you want.”

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