Chapter 19: The Board Meeting

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As much as Emma wanted to wallow over the night before, she had work to do. Monday morning, she met Jose and Rhonda at the office at the crack of dawn, coffee and briefcase in hand, power suit and designer heels on, which always managed to give a boost to her confidence. If she looked good, good enough to be intimidating, maybe she'd be able to form sentences around the conference room table later that morning.

While Emma and Jose went over the numbers for the millionth time, she paced her office, remembering her talking points, reminding herself to be strong and to talk slowly. Cindy joined them a few hours later with coffee refills, which Emma appreciated, and the new spreadsheets that Emma had asked her to run. The night before, she'd texted Andrew to ask about Bella. She checked her phone before shutting it down to concentrate. He'd texted her back.

Andrew: Bella's doing fine. Devon's drawing on her cast. We have an appointment with a plastic surgeon set up for when the stitches come out. Thank you for asking.

He could have been reporting to Mrs. Fletcher, instead of to the woman he'd spent the night kissing in front of the fireplace. She huffed and threw the phone into her desk drawer without replying.

Emma couldn't help but notice how her life had changed in the matter of a few years. How many years ago was it when, at Christmas time, she was in Bali with Teagan, shooting a cover? Now Teagan was playing Santa in California, and she was there in New York prepping for a Board meeting.

Her father would have wanted it this way, she told herself, to motivate her to keep trying. She could have turned control over the Board, could have let them sell to the retail conglomerate, but nobody knew her father and what he wanted for the company like she did. She couldn't let him down.

***

A few hours later, she touched up her makeup, straightened her hair, and marched through the hallway of BI to the conference room for the Board meeting, Jose and Rhonda in tow. She took a deep breath and with each step told herself, you got this, you know your stuff, you're prepared, just don't get weird or overly aggressive, and stick to the plan.

But when she walked through the doors to the conference room and saw Andrew Mooney sitting at the table, she did a double take, her cheeks flushed, and she dropped her briefcase. "Andrew?"

He stood up and walked to her, while Jose and Rhonda passed him. He wore a suit. A nice, grey suit and a striped tie, and looked incredibly handsome. Rhonda gave him a good glare when she walked by.

"What are you doing here?" Emma asked, as she bent to pick up her case.

He moved closer. "I thought you could tell me that. Stu called me at six a.m. and told me I had to be here. I had called out for Bella, but...what's going on, Emma?"

She shook her head. "I have no idea." A million thoughts ran through her mind, though. Someone must have figured out that they'd been seeing each other. She had no other connection to Andrew. Or maybe it had to do with the impending promotion.

Holding her elbow, he spoke low, his brow furrowed. "I'd appreciate honesty here. You know BI is my livelihood."

Her jaw dropped. "You think I had something to do with this?"

"It's your meeting. You're the damn CEO." His sea green eyes, the ones that used to remind her of the Maldives, now narrowed at her in anger. "You were upset when you left last night. Maybe this is your way of getting back at me."

Too stunned to respond, she stared at him, her mouth gaping as the ten board members filed into the conference room. Some of them greeted her warmly. She knew which ones would and which ones wouldn't. It was no secret which of the ten supported her. But at the moment, all she could think about was the tall, blond man staring down at her. The man she thought she could share her life with.

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