Emma found her mother and Carl in deep conversation with a recognizable couple that had been watching her and Grayson.
“Hello my darling.” Eliza wrapped her arms around Emma and kissed each side of her cheek, turning her attention away from the group. “How was your trip?”
“Looks like fishing wasn’t all she was doing on that cruise...” purred Martha Able, her thickly filled in eyebrows sending a questioning look above her bold blue colored eyelids. “...she snatched herself a fresh piece of Cohen.”
Emma bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling as big as she wanted. There wasn’t even fishing on the cruise and Emma was sure Martha was entirely aware, just fishing for details herself.
Eliza sent her a knowing smile. “So I heard.”
Her mother hugged her again and whispered in her ear, “You look beautiful darling and Grayson is a sweetheart. Handsome too, that one.”
“I see no ring, so it must be new,” Martha was saying.
“Oh Martha.” Carl wrapped an arm around Emma and pulled her tightly to his side. Her uncle Carl was an amazing man, and had been during her entire childhood and into adulthood. Robert was about public appearance, and Emma’s way of shying out of the light had caused conflict with Robert, but Carl had always come to her defense.
“Go read a tabloid if you’re looking for some juicy gossip,” Carl said to the older lady.
Martha tsked him and Carl only chuckled along with Martha’s husband, who in turn, received a nasty glare.
The conversation shifted to business and Emma found the topic less intriguing than ordinarily. Her eyes moved around the room looking for Grayson. He was more popular with the crowd than she was, and therefore more guests were lining up to talk to him.
“How is that Cohen clan holding up?” Martha focused in on Emma again.
Why was her tone sounding suspicious?
Emma smiled boldly. “Good.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I mean after losing Susan, those two men, in my opinion...” Martha put her hand to her chest. “...have been a little off. I mean Brock trolling around with women half his age is distasteful. I am just glad to see Grayson hasn’t followed in his footsteps.”
“I mean what a terrible example to teach a young boy.” Martha was too opinionated for her own good.
Everyone was entitled to an opinion, but Emma was not going to stand around and listen to such ignorance.
As she was about to voice her opinion, to the woman who could herself cut off on the sweets and hit a gym, Carl touched her arm to stop her.
“Martha, Brock has raised a wonderful man and what he does behind closed doors is neither yours nor my business. I’m sure if Stanley were to air the affairs behind your closed doors, you wouldn’t appreciate it.”
It was Martha’s turn to gasp and look at Eliza as if to have her punish Carl. “Don’t look at me, I plan on marrying my deceased husband’s brother after having an affair with him for decades.”
Emma almost fell over with shock. Sure people were talking about them, but for her mother to come right out and say it. Shock or laughter.
“Let’s go Stan.” Martha grabbed her husband’s arm. “This conversation turned distasteful.” She looked at Eliza. “Do not expect my donation at your next gala.”
Eliza didn’t even flinch as she said, “Punish the children Martha, that’s sensible.”
Fury took Martha’s face as they left. Stanley, on the other hand, looked amused, and winked at them as they left.
Emma stepped across from the two trouble makers and stared in shock at Eliza and Carl.
Carl chuckled, obviously enjoying the banter and wrapped her arm around Eliza’s shoulder kissing the top of her head.
“What was that about?” Emma asked.
“Martha is a run-of-the-mill big mouth who has plenty of skeletons in her closet,” Carl said.
Emma immediately thought of her father’s secret room and all the files and knew Carl had learned a thing or two about her. Those files were nothing but trouble.
Eliza sobered. “It’s hard for people to relate to what they don’t understand.”
“What do you mean?” Emma asked, but she had a growing suspicion she already knew.
“Brock and Linda’s affair.”
Emma blinked in disbelief. “Brock told you?”
Eliza shook her head. “It was in the papers last week.”
“And splashed across the Internet.” Marc joined them, coming up behind Emma, and giving her a half hug.
Kate was at his side, and came around for a full hug. The McAdams were huggers and Emma was still getting used of not only Kate pulling her into big hugs, but every single sister. Even after their differences, Kate treated her like family and now Emma thought of her as family.
“Where’s Abby, Izzy and Melissa?” Kate asked.
“Melissa went home and I haven’t seen Abby or Izzy.”
“Emma’s been with Grayson,” Eliza said proudly.
Kate liked that piece of information. “I’m sure the girls will have some fun stories to share.”
“Yes, they do,” Emma said quickly, only imagining the horror stories of this trip. “Listen, the Cohens don’t know this information has gone viral. I don’t understand how it was leaked.”
Carl shook his head frustrated. “It only takes a dollar amount and greedy person to dig up dirt.”
GRAYSON HAD KEPT his eye on Emma since they were separated. He wasn’t surprised to find she’d ended up in deep conversation with her family. He was even less surprised when she snuck off through a side door. His anti-social book nerd.
The crowd boring him, with details he’d lost interest in, somewhere in the midst of wanting to take Emma back to his condo and making a mental note that come morning he was calling the magazine and telling them exactly what type of photographer Micah was. If they kept him on board, no doubt their clients would begin to perish, including the Cohen and Caliendos.
He excused himself and found Emma in a hall behind a door that said private. She’d found a sofa and was perched with her legs under her, and her attention absorbed in whatever was on her phone.
“I always wondered what it would be like to sneak away from a party,” he said, as he approached.
Emma glanced up. “Do you know Brock and Linda’s affair is everywhere?”
He nodded, and loved how worried she was about his family. “Do you know it was going to get out sooner than later?”
She frowned and dropped her eyes back to her phone. “You’ve snuck out of plenty of parties,” she muttered.
He sat down beside her. “Never with Emma Caliendo. Never into a secret hall.”
Emma giggled and looked up at him. “Is it everything you thought it would be?” she asked.
He lifted her hand to his lips and grazed her knuckles. “So much better. Limo, elevator, bed,” he said, playing a round of naughty bingo with her.
A mischievous smile played on her lips. “Closet, storage room, empty ballroom,” Emma said.
Grayson grinned. “You are one naughty girl,” he said, catching her bottom lip with his teeth.
“I learned from my naughty boyfriend.”
He chuckled. “Naughty bingo is all yours.”
“I’m all yours.”
His mouth covered hers for a kiss until they were breathless. “In that case, I want to take you home.”
“Home, love, forever.” Grayson agreed with her one-hundred percent. Forever.