Chapter 14: Grumpy Gus

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Emma and Jose Munoz, the Chief Financial Officer, ordered Thai food and worked late Monday night, tweaking the talking points that Rhonda had drafted and combining them with the numbers to support her new policies. They'd been over it many times, but with the Board on the hunt for her blood, Emma wanted to be sure they were ready. Again, Jose insisted that in the long run, the numbers would benefit BI well into the future. There was no reason for the Board to object.

The problem, Emma knew, was that they wanted a sale. The world had changed since her father had built Ballard Industries from scratch, with her mother's first dress designs. People didn't go browse department stores anymore. The Board insisted that the modern consumers weren't seeing enough Ballard designs to keep the company sustainable.

Emma understood that. Really, she did. And she didn't necessarily disagree. But the sole purpose of her father requesting her to take over as CEO, was because he didn't want that, and she was determined to continue his legacy.

As they worked on their laptops sorting through financial spreadsheets, company history, and human resources articles on employer/employee relations, Emma was happy for the distraction of work. She didn't want to think about Andrew Mooney kissing her in her office earlier.

Actually, she did want to think about it. The way his lips shook against hers like he was a nervous teenager instead of a thirty-something-year-old man. How he'd tripped on his way out when he backed into the closed door, that goofy grin lighting his face. Mostly she couldn't get the image of those sea green eyes out of her mind.

But she had a company to run. A company that had a policy that she wasn't supposed to date her co-workers, especially those for whom she was about to approve a promotion. With Stu moving into Russell's job, that left his job open for Andrew. Emma wanted to give him the job, which could make things weird.

It was sometime after ten when she and Jose finally left the office. Back at the penthouse, she shuffled to her bedroom and into the closet, fishing out her favorite pair of sweats. After ditching the power suit and heels, she sighed in joy at the feel of her fluffy socks and warm NYU sweatshirt. She went back to the kitchen, flung open the freezer for the unopened pint of chocolate chip mint, flipped off the lid, and started eating it on the way to her bedroom.

Once she was settled in under the blankets, she turned on her favorite Christmas movie channel, wrapping her down comforter around her. Her phone buzzed from the nightstand.

Andrew: Busy?

She smiled at the phone, heat warming her cheeks despite her ice cream treat.

Emma: The Queen's over. We're playing dress up with the Crown Jewels. You?

His reply came immediately.

Andrew: Lifting weights with The Rock and exuding testosterone.

She giggled like a tween, glad he couldn't see her.

Emma: Sexy.

Andrew: Yep.

Emma: When I ditch the Queen, I predict that I'll be laying in bed in my sweats watching Christmas movies and eating ice cream.

Andrew: Funny, me too. Except change out ice cream for leftover sheetcake.

Emma: Stop. Really?

Andrew: Love these Christmas movies. Hayley got me hooked years ago. This one is the pet shop owner and the vet. Barky the bulldog. A Very Barky Christmas?

Emma smiled at the phone, realizing they were watching the same thing. She wasn't sure how to read the comment about Hayley, but since his tone seemed happy, like he wanted to keep talking, and not sketchy like he was freaked out, she texted him back.

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