They find themselves on an unofficial lunch date.
The cool moistness felt very good. "You fainted, and I just barely caught you before you hit the floor." He smiled warmly. "You've had a tough day."
The words "my husband is leaving me" floated through her head and Emma started to feel things slipping away again.
Derek was sitting on the floor next to her, holding one of her hands in his.
"Do you want me to continue?"
"Peter has been having an affair with his executive assistant for nearly two years."
Emma felt the import of what that timeframe meant and started to cry. "That's when I found out I couldn't have babies. I lost him because we couldn't have a family."
"That's basically what he said, too. Marie is fertile. She's going to have Peter's baby."
Emma sobbed for nearly half an hour, her body wracked as the sorrow washed over her. What difference did it make now what she'd done with Derek? She was a complete and utter failure as a woman. If Derek hadn't been patiently holding her hand, saying soothing words, she had no idea what she might have done.
As her sorrow gave way to weariness, Derek said, "May I tell you something else, Emma? Something good?"
She didn't have the energy left to answer.
"Emma, as you're well aware, I've known many, many women." He shook his head. "Two called while you were asleep, wanting to know if they could have a 'consultation'. Emma please look at me."
She turned her head.
"I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever say this to a woman, but over the past month I've fallen hopelessly in love with you."
"You're just saying that because you're my friend."
He shook his head. "No. I am dead serious. Let me finish what I need to tell you, then you'll know."
Emma sat up. "Okay. I'm listening."
Derek stayed on the floor in front of her, talking for a long time. He told Emma more about her husband's "liaison" (as Peter had referred to it) with this Marie person. Each word was like a body blow to the poor woman, but as Emma herself pointed out during the conversation, she was no better than Marie.
Not only had Peter been sneaking around with Marie for 2 years (all the nights coming home late because of 'work'), they had been traveling together on all those trips. With the advancement to New York, Peter saw the possibility of starting over with his new woman. She'd follow him and they'd get married in a year or two with a ready-made family. The problem was getting rid of Emma. He needed evidence of her "moral turpitude" to be able to divorce her quickly.
"Peter asked me to try to seduce you, although he doubted it would work," Derek told her with a grin. "If I was successful, he would pay me to testify against you in court."
Emma was shocked, sad, but most of all, angry now. "And you agreed to do this for him. Is that what all this has been about?"
Derek quickly sat next to her, putting his arm around her. "Didn't I just tell you that I'm in love with you, dear sweet Emma? That is and will always remain the truth."
She nodded. "And what did you tell that rat?"
"That I would think about it."
"And did you?"
"I've spent the past 24 hours thinking of nothing else, but not about what he wants from me, but what I can do to him."
"And what have you come up with?"
"This," Derek said as he wrapped his arms around Emma and told her his plan.
Two days later, Peter pulled into driveway and noticed that his house was dark. When he got to the front door, that was locked, too. Glancing at Derek's house, he saw that the lights were on.
He hadn't heard from his neighbor since he'd left for New York, even though he'd promised to call. Now that he hadn't gotten the promotion, all of Peter's plans had changed. If Derek had somehow managed to seduce Emma, things would be really grim. How could he take back a soiled wife?
Entering the house he wondered where Emma might be. She wouldn't be out when she knew he'd be arriving home.
Dear God! Peter suddenly thought.