“Alright. Alright. I’m here. What’s so important that I had to drop everything?” Billy huffed as he sat down at the table and stared at Kyle. “I had a lot of work to do today and for the record, so do you.”
Kyle smiled. A sensible man would be worried at Billy’s obvious annoyance with him, but he knew better. He knew the reason behind his good mood – his ace in the hole. “This is better than work … trust me.”
“We don’t have the luxury of better than work right now, Kyle. With Phyllis behind that desk, she’s just looking for a reason to tell both of us to …”
“Maybe she won’t be behind that desk that much longer …”
Billy stopped short, his eyes suddenly piquing with interest. “What?” He leaned forward, looking around the room before speaking again. “What are you talking about? Did you find out something?”
“Not really. It’s not so much something I found as …”
“Kyle …” The frustration in his voice was obvious now and he slammed his hand on the table hard. The sound was louder than he intended, it’s clatter attracting the attention of the people closest to them. “Sorry,” Billy muttered smiling politely at the older couple that sat nearest to them. He forced a calming breath into his body and gritted his teeth. “I don’t have time for your games right now. What did you do?”
Kyle slid the tablet across the table, letting his fingertip quickly touch the screen. “That’s why I needed you to get here so fast,” he grinned proudly. “I wanted you to see it live.”
Billy glanced down at the screen, his face turning more serious as he saw Mariah appear. An instant rush of concern washed over him. He and Kyle had been talking about getting Phyllis out of the CEO position for weeks now, but they hadn’t talked specifics, certainly nothing that would require any sort of public announcement … Kyle was young and impulsive and … His stomach sank as the image appeared on the screen. “My God, Kyle.” He swallowed hard before lifting his eyes to stare at him. “What the hell did you do?”
Kyle stumbled as he struggled to follow Billy towards the corner by the stairs. “I gotta say, this isn’t exactly the ‘Thanks, Kyle’ I was expecting.”
Billy let go of his arm and glared at him. “Really? You expected me to thank you for this.” He shook the tablet in front of his face. “How do you think Phyllis is gonna react to being humiliated on television like that? Furthermore, how do you think our investors are gonna appreciate the CEO of Jabot being put on blast like that?”
“Maybe the CEO of Jabot should have chosen a more discreet location for her rendezvous with Nick Newman,” Kyle shrugged. “It’s not like I was some peeping Tom. They were in the middle of his office. He could at least get some of those closing curtains like the ones in her office. The glass doors really aren’t gonna cut it with that kind of after hours work.” He smiled again, amusing himself. “Seriously … you could at least show a little appreciation for the level of initiative I showed here. You were the one that wanted me to keep things above board and I did. I didn’t plant any evidence. Nothing about this was set up. I just waited and watched and let her make her own bed … so to speak. Oddly enough if she had kept this confined to her a bed, we wouldn’t really be having this conversation …”
“Would you just shut up,” Billy hissed as he let the table fall by his side. “This isn’t a joke, Kyle! This could really mess things up for her … I mean for Jabot. This kind of scandal doesn’t just impact her job. It’s going to cause our customers to think poorly of the entire leadership team.”
“And is that what this is really about? You’re worried about how our customers are gonna feel about the company? About the choices we’re making? You’re worried about how our investors are gonna feel about the culture of our organization? That’s what you’re trying to sell here? Because it seems to me that what you’re really upset about is what you see in those pictures. Phyllis isn’t spending her nights chained to the desk, buried under files and figures … she’s spending a whole lot more time underneath …”
He stopped as he felt Billy’s hands grab his collar and then let him go just as quickly. “Never mind,” he breathed. “I think that’s a good enough answer.”
“I’m not upset about …” His entire body was on edge. Everything in him was screaming and yet he couldn’t let on, not in front of Kyle, not in front of anyone. As much as he wanted to pretend it didn’t bother him, God help him, it did. “Phyllis can do whatever she wants, with whoever she wants. I don’t have any hold on her anymore just like she doesn’t have any hold on me. I just don’t think it was a good idea to do this right now. She’s gonna be pissed and when Phyllis is pissed she lashes out. We don’t need her particular brand of vengeance especially when we’re at a very clear disadvantage. I know her style and when …” He stopped as he heard the sound of his phone chiming. His eyes darkened as he saw the familiar name flash across the screen. “Speaking of …”
“Hello.” Dread washed over him as he said the word. Normally the sight of her name would fill him with a momentary rush of hope, but this time he had a pretty good idea of what the phone call would entail. She had seen or heard about Mariah’s broadcast and she no doubt thought he was behind it.
“Billy.” Her voice was like ice and venom all rolled into one. “My office. Now.” There was no further conversation. No question. No hesitation. The call ended as abruptly as it had begun.
He let the phone slip back into his pocket as he looked back into Kyle’s waiting face. “I’ve been summoned,” he said quietly.
“I’ll tell her it was me,” Kyle offered. “What’s she gonna do? Fire us?”
“Oh, I doubt it. That would be too easy. If she fired us, she wouldn’t have us around to torture.”
“You rang?” Billy stepped into the office, bracing his body as much as possible for the eventual onslaught. “Is there a problem?”
“Close the door.” Her eyes were full of rage as she stood up from the desk. He could see her entire body seething as she waited to hear the sound of the door close behind him. “You know damn well what the problem is, Billy! Is this your idea of payback?”
“Phyllis … If you’ll just let me …”
“Let you what?” She walked back over towards the desk and turned the computer monitor forward, the image of Nick on top of her frozen on the screen. “Let you explain how this was gonna help you get back in this chair? How this was gonna help Jabot? How this was gonna help anything?!”
“I know how it looks. I know what you’re probably thinking, but …”
“If you think I’m thinking that you are completely and totally shortsighted, that you’re so consumed with your own needs and desires that you would never, ever be capable of considering the best interests of a company like this … then yeah, you’re right … you do know exactly what I’m thinking!!!!”
“Don’t pretend your motives have always been pure, Phyllis. It isn’t like everything you’ve done here has been all Jabot, all the time. You and I both know that a lot of the decisions you’ve made have been more about sticking it to me than the company line. Even that moment right there …” He paused and pointed at the screen. “You gonna try and tell me that isn’t about me?”
“What I do with Nick has absolutely nothing to do with you!”
“It has everything to do with me. You’re trying to prove that you’re not pining over me and the best way to do that is to go and throw yourself at Nick. And he’s all too willing to oblige because he’s trying to do the same damn thing with Sharon. What I can’t understand is how you managed to get here so damn fast. You claimed you loved me. You claimed you were 100% in my corner and on my side. I know I did some things … some things that I shouldn’t have done … I know I crossed some lines, but I hadn’t slept with Summer when you first slept with Nick.”
“No. At that time, you were only gambling and lying to me about it. You had only put our relationship on the back burner tor everything else multiple times and you were doing it again.”
“Oh I did that?” He glared at her incredulously. “Because you were the one that became completely obsessed with Nick and Chelsea. You were the one that kept information about Jack’s plan to ruin Brash and Sassy from me and it was you that cheated first. You slept with Nick. You set all of this in motion. You did.”
“Do you really want to start comparing sins, Billy?”
He huffed. “Alright. Fair point. I won that round. I slept with Summer. That was the death blow to us. You’re right. I did the end all be all worst thing ever, but you didn’t even know about that when you completely gave up on me, when you sat back and let them take the CEO position away from me while I was at rehab trying to get my life back together. Even as I walked away from you, you promised me that you wouldn’t give up on us. You promised me that you’d fight for us with everything you had, but it only took what? A day, two days for you decide it wasn’t even worth fighting for me with a board vote?”
“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“I know I walked out of this town with nothing and yeah, a lot of that was my fault. I left you. I slept with Summer. I was intent on burning it all to the ground, but when I came back, I had nothing to come back to. I find out that everyone was perfectly content to just forget everything I brought to this company. Did I make mistakes? Yeah. Did I put the company at risk? Yeah. But everyone else has too. And I deserved a little bit of credit. I deserved the chance to pull it all back.”
“I gave you chances, Billy. I fought for you. I fought for us. But you weren’t interested. You were hellbent on causing me as much pain as I caused you. And you know what? I didn’t even blame you for that. I understand wanting me to hurt. I know I hurt you and I’m sorry, but what you did with Summer was beyond anything I would have ever done or even thought about doing. And now … my God … isn’t it enough? Haven’t you done enough? You slept with my daughter, Billy and now this?”
“This wasn’t about humiliating you or hurting you … this was …”
“I’m not humiliated. There’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing. Nick and I are single, consenting adults that can do what we want with who we want.”
“Except you’re the CEO of a corporation that relies on its reputation and its corporate culture for its success. When customers see the CEO on the news flat on their back with …”
“So that’s what your game is? You’re just trying to get me ousted? You want the board to see me as a liability and vote me out? And then what? You think they’ll vote you in? You think they’ll see how smart and resourceful you were with your smear campaign here and reward you by putting you back at the helm?”
“I didn’t say that and I didn’t do this. I wasn’t the one …”
“I know that, okay! I know that you weren’t the one that cheated first, Billy! You’re said that a million times. You don’t need to say it again. I get it. I screwed up here. I made the first mistake. It was me. But you don’t know everything. You’re so sure that I just gave up on you. You’re so sure that I didn’t fight to keep for you. Why don’t you ask your family how that board vote went? Why don’t you ask them what the final vote was?”
He opened his mouth to speak, but she was already storming out of her own office.
Phyllis stood outside the door, her chest heaving in indignation and the threat of tears. He should have been the one to leave, but it didn’t matter, she couldn’t stand it any longer. She could stand and stare at him and not fall apart. Her breath caught as Kyle stepped up to her.
“I don’t have anything to say to you right now,” she spat. “Get out of my sight.”
“Wait. Phyllis, just listen. I know you’re angry, but don’t blame Billy for this, please. If you want to fire me, fire me, but Billy didn’t know about this one. He didn’t have any idea what I was doing until it was already done and he’s already given me hell for it, so if you want to pile it on, go ahead. I know I shouldn’t have taken the photos and I know turning them in to Mariah was a low blow and it was counter productive for Jabot and ….”
“I don’t want to hear it. I just don’t want to hear it.” She walked away, her own mind reeling. This was more than even she could handle. Billy hadn’t been the one to take the pictures. In this instance, he hadn’t tried to hurt her in this way, but in so many other instances, the pain was still very real.
Kyle watched silently as she slowly walked away. The sound of footsteps startled him and he looked up, surprised to see Billy in one piece. “You look far better than I expected coming out of there,” Kyle sighed.
“Well looks can be deceiving,” Billy muttered. “She’s angry and probably off plotting her master plan of revenge now.” He paused a moment as Kyle turned to leave. “Wait a minute.”
Kyle stopped and turned back towards him. “Yeah?”
“I want to ask you something. You remember the board vote, while I was in rehab. The one where you all had to decide who was going to serve as CEO while I was gone? It was when the Blood Abbott clause was still in play, so it had to be Tracey and there was a vote. I was talking to Phyllis and she made this weird comment about how I should ask someone how the vote went … Do you know? Everyone voted for Tracey, right?”
“Not everyone.” Kyle looked up at him, already knowing where this answer would lead. “You did get one vote. Phyllis voted for you.” He waited for only a moment before walking away. That kind of revelation wasn’t one you revealed and then sat around to discuss.
It was as if the words echoed throughout his mind as he watched Kyle disappear down the hallway. The things he’d said to her and yet she’d never once told him this …. Perhaps now it didn’t matter … after everything else was said and done. Their choices had been made.
The soft click of her heels on the tile floor broke the silence and he looked as she neared her office door. “What are you still doing here?” she asked as she eyed him warily.
“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “I guess maybe I was thinking we hadn’t finished our conversation.”
“Haven’t we? Is there anything else to say?”
“I think so. At least I hope so. I’d hate to leave it like this … after everything we’ve been through together.”
She stopped and studied him. “I thought you said it didn’t matter. That’s what you said at the house that day. You said that everything we’d gone through together didn’t matter anymore.”
“I was angry. I was upset. I was wrong.”
“And then you …” She couldn’t even finish, the knowledge of what he’d done being plenty painful without ever saying the words.
“I was wrong then too. Really wrong. In fact wrong seems like a really weak word for what it was. I was just so hurt that I couldn’t think about what it would really do to everyone involved. I just wanted to lash out and …”
“You definitely did that.”
“I know. Now I just want to try and make it better even if I can’t ever make it right again. You know?”
She nodded. “I know. So you want to finish that talk now?” She walked towards the door and gently pushed it open, hanging by the doorway for a moment as she waited for his response.
“Yeah,” he smiled, cautiously. “Let’s do that.”