Chapter 23: Best Friends

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Jose popped the cork on the champagne that Rhonda had snuck in. The Board, especially that vile James McAdams, had been humiliated when their plan with Dario had fallen through. Teagan, who was waiting in Emma's office during the meeting, had called for a celebration, putting herself in charge of pouring the five glasses of champagne while they broke down what had happened.

Andrew had wanted to rip Dario's Clooney-looking head off when he'd stepped into the boardroom again on Tuesday morning. Especially when he noticed Emma tense up beside him. But when McAdams asked him to speak, Dario stood up and looked at Emma.

Something had passed between them in that knowing glance, and Dario shook his head. "Ms. Ballard had been nothing but professional with me during her modeling career. I'm sorry if that's not what you wanted to hear. She deserves your respect."

With another glance at Emma, Dario had turned and left. A quick look at Emma's face had told Andrew that she was just as surprised by Dario's statement as everyone else in the room.

As the discussed the meeting in Emma's office, Rhonda tapped a finger over her lips. "Maybe they thought he'd humiliate you into leaving?" she asked.

Just then, a knock on the door interrupted their discussion. Delilah Medina peeked in. "Can I come in?"

After introductions, Teagan offered her a glass of champagne, which Delilah accepted. She looked to Emma. "I'm so sorry they, we, did that to you. How embarrassing. You must have been horrified."

"I'm tougher than I look," Emma answered. "I admit I've made mistakes in the past."

Andrew reached for her arm and gave her a pinch. "We all have."

"Amen to that," Teagan said, holding up her glass. "What was the deal with Dario, Delilah? Do you know what he was going to say?"

Leave it to Teagan to get to the point. Andrew was just getting to know the woman, but one thing he'd learned was that she wasn't one to beat around the bush.

Emma held up a hand. "You don't have to share," she said, glaring at Teagan. "It's confidential, Tea."

"What if I told you this," Delilah started, looking up at the ceiling. "Say, hypothetically, they were trying to show a pattern of you abusing power. And hypothetically, they had you with the Mooney affair and promotion," she glanced at Andrew. He held his hands to his chest, in a gesture of innocence. "And," Delilah continued, "you had forced your photographer into a sexual relationship, a photographer who worked for a company that you owned stock in that you probably didn't even know about."

Turned out the Board had discovered that Emma's father had bought stock in her name, for whatever reason, in the modeling agency that both she and Dario had worked for. With some investigation, namely, an interview with Dario's ex-wife, they'd learned of his affair with Emma and tried to exploit it.

"At first," Delilah started, "Dario Santini ignored the calls. But then, when we offered to bring him to New York to interview in person, he couldn't wait to get on that plane. He said that you'd destroyed his marriage, and he wanted to destroy you. Face to face."

Andrew's fists clenched at his sides. He should have ripped Dario's head off when he had the chance. "But something changed," he said, looking at Emma. "He's gone now, and I think he's gotten his closure on the situation too."

"Maybe," she murmured. "Thanks, Delilah."

As the others discussed the company, Andrew watched Emma as she absent-mindedly placed her champagne glass on her desk and moved to the window.

He followed, standing behind her as she looked out over Rockefeller Center.

"It's almost Christmas," she whispered.

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