First Impressions by Kyrie

1. Chapter 1 by Kyrie

2. Chapter 2 by Kyrie

3. Chapter 3 by Kyrie

4. Chapter 4 by Kyrie

5. Chapter 5 by Kyrie

6. Chapter 6 by Kyrie

7. Chapter 7 by Kyrie

8. Chapter 8 by Kyrie

9. Chapter 9 by Kyrie

10. Chapter 10 by Kyrie

11. Chapter 11 by Kyrie

12. Chapter 12 by Kyrie

13. Chapter 13 by Kyrie

14. Chapter 14 by Kyrie

15. Chapter 15 by Kyrie

16. Chapter 16 by Kyrie

17. Chapter 17 by Kyrie

18. Chapter 18 by Kyrie

19. Chapter 19 by Kyrie

20. Chapter 20 by Kyrie

21. Chapter 21 by Kyrie

22. Chapter 22 by Kyrie

23. Chapter 23 by Kyrie

24. Chapter 24 by Kyrie

25. Chapter 25 by Kyrie

26. Chapter 26 by Kyrie

27. Chapter 27 by Kyrie

28. Chapter 28 by Kyrie

29. Chapter 29 by Kyrie

30. Chapter 30 by Kyrie

31. Chapter 31 by Kyrie

32. Chapter 32 by Kyrie

33. Chapter 33 by Kyrie

34. Chapter 34 by Kyrie

35. Chapter 35 by Kyrie

36. Chapter 36 by Kyrie

37. Chapter 37 by Kyrie

38. Chapter 38 by Kyrie

39. Chapter 39 by Kyrie

40. Chapter 40 by Kyrie

41. Chapter 41 by Kyrie

42. Chapter 42 by Kyrie

43. Chapter 43 by Kyrie

44. Chapter 44 by Kyrie

45. Chapter 45 by Kyrie

46. Chapter 46 by Kyrie

47. Chapter 47 by Kyrie

48. Chapter 48 by Kyrie

49. Chapter 49 by Kyrie

50. Chapter 50 by Kyrie

51. Chapter 51 by Kyrie

52. Chapter 52 by Kyrie

53. Chapter 53 by Kyrie

54. Chapter 54 by Kyrie

Chapter 1 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Let me know what you guys think!

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this again Kat!”

 

Katherine Brady laughed as she watched her best friend Brenda Davidson try to pop her ears so she could hear again. She and Brenda had been best friends for years and they worked together teaching at a local middle school. They were like family and did most things together, including going to the Backstreet Boys concert that night in Boston. Kat knew that Brenda had gone to make her happy and she appreciated her friend making the sacrifice. She had always been that kind of friend and Kat couldn’t ask for a better “sister”.

 

“Laugh it up chica, you think I’m joking! You’re gonna pay for my Miracle Ear when I need one!” Brenda hit the side of her head again.

 

“Oh come on. It’s wasn’t that bad. The women weren’t as loud as they usually are.”

 

“Women? Women? I’m going deaf because of you! You scream louder than any person I have ever met. You act like a mature adult anywhere else, but when you see those guys, you turn into a star struck teenager every time!”

 

“I do not!” Kat said smacking her friend on the arm.

 

“You do too! I don’t wanna be there on the day that you get to meet them. Everyone in a ten mile radius will go deaf.”

 

“I wish! There’s probably a better chance of hell freezing over than me actually getting the chance to meet them.”

 

“You never know.” Brenda winked. “Maybe AJ will fall in love with you and sweep you off your feet.” she said teasing her friend.

 

“Ok, now I know you haven’t just lost your hearing but you’ve lost all your marbles too! He’s in a relationship and I’m not, I repeat NOT, the type of girl he would ever go for.”

 

Kat was a plus size girl who was cute but didn’t think anyone ever looked at her as being anything special. She had long, layered brown hair, blue eyes, glasses and what people told her was a cute smile. She was confident about her personality but still was touchy about the weight issue.

 

Brenda put her arm around her friend’s shoulders. “That’s not true Kat. You’re a terrific catch and he’d be lucky to have you. I wish you wouldn’t be so hard on yourself and that you could see yourself the way everyone else does.”

 

“I wish I could too. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t ever meet his ideal girlfriend standards.”

 

Brenda started to say something but Kat cut her off.

 

“I don’t even know why we’re discussing this. It doesn’t matter. Let’s head home. The kids will be off the wall tomorrow since it’s our first day back from vacation. We need to be prepared!”

 

Kat laughed as Brenda groaned. “Don’t remind me.”

Chapter 2 by Kyrie

“Look Michelle, I don’t need a lecture. I just called you yesterday. Do you need me to call you every five seconds?” 

Nick watched as AJ paced back and forth in his dressing room after the show.

 “This is ridiculous! You know we’re out on tour and I have commitments I need to take care of.”

 Kevin and Brian let out a collective sigh.

 “I’m not an asshole and I do care about your feelings!”

 Howie just shook his head.

 “Fine! Goodbye!”

 AJ threw his phone onto the couch and sank down into the chair, obviously in a foul mood.

 “Everything ok?” Nick asked cautiously.

 “No, everything is not ok! Weren’t you listening to the conversation?” AJ snapped at Nick.

 Kevin decided that enough was enough. This had been going on for a year already and everyone was sick and tired of the drama.

 “Why do you stay with her J? She makes you miserable.”

 AJ narrowed his eyes at Kevin. Sometimes he took his role as the older one in the group too seriously and AJ didn’t like being told what to do.

 “I don’t need dating advice from you Kevin. I know you have the “golden” relationship but not all of us are as perfect as you!”

 Kevin was going to make a sarcastic remark but decided against it and left the room slamming the door behind him.

 “You don’t need to bite his head off just cause you’re in a bad mood.” Nick said.

 “I don’t need advice from you either.” AJ stood up. “Let’s just get out of here. We don’t have a show until tomorrow night and I plan on hiding out until then.”

 “Actually, we have that trip in the morning.” Brian reminded.

 AJ groaned. “Why do we have to do this thing again? Can’t we just skip this one?”

 “Because she’s a huge fan and it was our idea. And no, we’re not skipping this one.”

 The group had decided two months before the tour that they would pick one lucky fan to visit in each state or province they were in. They asked for submissions and they chose each fan before they went out on the road.  The fan from Boston had never actually submitted an entry. She taught at one of the local schools and her students had made a video explaining why the guys should pay a visit to their teacher. It was a sweet idea and they had even made a montage of pictures of her and them and set it to the song “Bigger Than Me”.* The kids explained to them that she did a lot for her students and they wanted to pay her back with a big surprise.

 “We’re not going to back out of this J so you’d better just get some rest and deal with it.”

 “Fine.” AJ grumbled. “Just don’t expect me to be happy about it.” He stormed off and left Brian, Howie and Nick to talk.

 “He better not screw this up.” Howie said angrily. “She’s a fan and they need to know how important they are to us.”

 “Look, J’s not normally like this. Maybe his bad mood will just pass and he’ll be fine in the morning.” Brian suggested.

 Nick and Howie traded a look saying that they weren’t so sure about that.

 

* Lyrics to “Bigger Than Me”

 First off I can’t keep a promise
I'm no one to count on at all
Add on that I'm a coward
Too scared to return your calls

But you don't care
You keep sticking around
While I'm acting a clown
You're bigger
Lalala
Cuz you're still here
Your feet stuck to the ground
Despite how silly it sounds
You're bigger
Than me
Lalala

Its known that I'm a liar
Often they're blacker than white
Add on my uncanny ego
No one’s less humbled than I

But you don't care
You keep sticking around
While I'm acting a clown
You're bigger
Lalala
Cuz you're still here
Your feet stuck to the ground
Despite how silly it sounds
You're bigger
Than me
Lalala

All the messed up things I do
Yeah I swear I'll make'em up to you
Before you go and have enough
Just let me make it better
I'll try to measure up
I'll try to measure up to you

I'll make it up to you

But you don't care
You keep sticking around
While I'm acting a clown
You're bigger
Lalala
Cuz you're still here
Your feet stuck to the ground
Despite how silly it sounds
You're bigger
Than me
Lalala

Chapter 3 by Kyrie

“Why can’t we hang out with you Ms. Brady?”

 “Yeah, we don’t want to go to lunch.”

 “Play a game with us!”

 Kat just shook her head. She still couldn’t understand why teenagers would spend their lunch period with their math teacher instead of hanging out with their friends.

 “Why don’t you guys just go down and chill out with everyone else?”

 “Because we love driving you nuts!” Madeline teased her, running around the room with her blond ponytail flying behind her.

 India, Jace, and Paulo laughed.

 “Real funny, guys! Now I know you like torturing me!”  Kat laughed. She loved her job and these kids even if they drove her crazy sometimes. She had a good relationship with them and that made her job easier.

“Please?” Jace begged. He started rummaging through her closet and dug out their favorite game. Most people didn’t realize that teenagers turned into little kids when they got to play games with each other.

“Oh please no. Not that one.” Kat groaned.

 There was this new game out that had all the players wear a Velcro headband and attach three pictures to them. The players had to guess what was on their head by watching the others perform charades. Kat hated this one because she always got stuck with the embarrassing ones like dodo bird, toilet brush or trash can.

 Kat was close to begging at this point. “There has to be something else you guys want to play. Anything else.”

 “Nope!” India put her foot down. “This is the one that we’re playing. You’re going to have to tough it out Ms. Brady.”

 They had just gotten settled into playing when Brenda came over to visit.

 “I love this game!” she said and started laughing. She knew Kat hated this one and the look on her face was priceless. She had gotten stuck with stinky socks, mud and spiders.

 Kat started to get up. “I insist you take my spot then Ms. Davidson. I wouldn’t want to deprive you of an opportunity to play.”

 Brenda pushed her back down. “Oh no. I love watching you play.”

 Kat mouthed “I hate you” at Brenda and she sat back down. Brenda decided to sit opposite Kat so she could make funny faces at her behind the kids’ backs.

 They had been playing for a few minutes when there was a knock on the door.

 “Come in!” yelled Kat, still trying to guess one of the clues. She heard it open and she looked up at Brenda when she squeaked. Her face had turned completely white and she was pointing furiously at her head.

 Completely forgetting that she had the pictures stuck to her forehead, she turned to see who had come in. She had to do a double take when she saw her principal, Mr. King, standing there with the Backstreet Boys. Her principal and Kevin were smiling while Nick, Howie and Brian were chuckling. AJ was the only one not smiling.

 She turned back around to hide her blushing and she saw Brenda motioning to her head again. Kat also noticed that Paulo had actually fallen out of his chair laughing and the others were doubled over. At first she didn’t realize what everyone’s problem was and then she lifted her hand to her head and felt the cards. She was horrified that she had them posted to her head when she turned around and all she wanted to do was crawl under the table and die.

“Why don’t we give you a couple of minutes to clean up Ms. Brady and then we’ll have some coffee in my office.” Her principal walked away laughing and the boys turned to leave. Brian bent down and picked up a card that was on the floor.

“I think this is one of yours.” he said with a grin and then followed the others out.

 As soon as they were out of earshot, Kat turned to face Brenda and the kids. “I hate all of you right now!”

Chapter 4 by Kyrie

Kat sent the kids down to lunch and turned to face Brenda.

 “I CANNOT go down there! I am so embarrassed. Why are they even here?”

 She sank down into one of the chairs and covered her face with her hands. Brenda sat down next to her and put her hand on her shoulder.

 “You have to go down there. They must have come for a reason.” She paused. “Kat, are you really going to turn down a chance to meet the Backstreet Boys just because of one stupid thing?”

 “One stupid thing? That was my first impression and I looked like a dumbass!”

 “Well, at least you broke the ice!” Brenda tried to keep herself from giggling.

 “Thanks a lot!”

 “Look, you have a period off to meet them before you have to finish the day. Take advantage of it. Who knows, you may never see them again.”

“I can only hope.”

-------------------------

The guys were sitting around the conference table in the principal’s office drinking coffee and learning more about Kat and the school. They talked for about ten minutes and then Mr. King stood up.

 “Can I get anyone anything else before I go find Katherine?”

 Brian spoke up for the group. “Thank you Mr. King, but we’re ok. We appreciate you letting us disrupt your school day for a little while.”

 “Please call me Jason. It’s not an issue. The only problem might be getting Katherine to leave her room!” He walked away laughing.

 “This is so weird.” Nick said looking around.

“Why?” Howie asked.

“This is the first time I’ve been in a principal’s office when I wasn’t in trouble!”

 Howie, Brian and Kevin started laughing.  AJ just sat in the corner.

 “C’mon J. That was actually kind of funny.” Brian said.

 “Oh yeah, it was hilarious.”

Howie sighed. “Don’t be such a jackass AJ. We came to meet a fan. It’s not her fault you have issues with your girlfriend and she isn’t the one you should be mad at. Don’t wreck this for her and the rest of us.”

 “I’m not being a jack……”

 “Yes you are.” Nick, Brian and Kevin said in unison.

 AJ just glared at them.

 Brian was about to say something else when the door opened and Jason walked in followed by Kat who still looked like she wanted to hide in a closet.

 “Hi Katherine.” Brian said, pulling out a chair for her. “It’s nice to meet you.”

 “It’s Kat and it’s nice to meet you too.” she said quietly. “I apologize for earlier. I should have, might have…”

 Howie jumped in to save her. “It was a great first impression. We like seeing fans in real life. It was refreshing not to have someone knock us over from excitement and it was cute. Your kids seemed to enjoy it.”

 Kat blushed. “They’re great kids.”

 “They’re actually the reason why we’re here.” Kevin said.

Kat looked at him confused.

“Did you know about the video they made?”

She shook her head no. She had no clue what was going on.

 “We started this contest before we left on the tour.” Nick spoke up. “We asked fans to submit a video letting us know why they should be picked to have a visit with us.”

“But I didn’t send in a video.”

“Your students did. Do you want to see it?” Kevin asked

She nodded and Kevin pulled out his IPad. He set it up and she was shocked. The kids must have spent hours putting it together and she was so honored that they would do this for her.

 “It was the best one we’ve seen.” said Brian. “We decided to come over and pay you a visit.”

“Kind of wish I had a head’s up.” Kat said under her breath.

 Howie smiled. “Sorry we tried to keep the visits as secretive as possible. We would hate to have a hundred fans show up when we are trying to surprise one of them.”

 “I have an idea.” Jason interrupted. “You guys mentioned that you like seeing your fans with their lives. Why don’t you guys sit in on Katherine’s next class?”

He smiled and winked at Kat before sneaking out the door. She watched him leave thinking that if she didn’t love her job as much as she did, she’d quit right this second and leave.

 “Um….”

 “That’s an awesome idea.” Brian said. “This would be the first time we get to live the life of a fan for a little bit. It sounds like fun. What do you say?”

 “I, um, I don’t really teach the most exciting subject. I teach math and you might be…”

 “Bad assumption. What, you think since we’re celebrities that we don’t have a brain and aren’t smart enough…”

Nick jumped up, grabbed AJ by the shoulder and pushed him out the door.

 Kat looked horrified. “That’s not what I was going to say…”

 Howie cut her off. “It’s fine. Please accept our apologies. Apparently someone has PMS today and decided not to bring his happy face.”

Kat chuckled. Her laugh and smile broke the ice for everyone and the guys agreed to sit in on her last class.

 ------------------ 

Nick shoved AJ out the door and up against the wall.

 “You are being a prick!” he hissed at him quietly. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

AJ looked away. “Just leave me alone Nick.”

 “No. Listen up man. The woman in there has been very nice to all of us. She already feels embarrassed enough and you go and make it worse. That’s how you want to treat a fan?”

 “I said leave me alone Nick. I’ll go sit in the damn class but when it’s done, I’m out.”

AJ pushed past him and joined the other guys walking down to Kat’s room.

 

Chapter 5 by Kyrie

The guys loved hanging out with the kids and enjoyed watching Kat interact with them. They decided to stay for a little while after school to talk to the kids who made the video for her. AJ was still in a foul mood but the kids and other guys just ignored him. Kat wanted to apologize but she wasn't sure exactly what she would be apologizing for.

 They spent about twenty minutes with the kids before Madeline told them that there was a project they needed to work on.

 "It was great to meet all of you." Brian said.

 "It's nice to meet you guys too. Thank you for coming to visit our teacher." India told them as she packed up her stuff.

 The kids started to walk out but Jace turned around and looked at AJ.

 "I wish you were nicer to Ms. Brady. You're her favorite."

 The guys were stunned and Kat was bordering between mortified because Jace said it and humbled that the kids liked her enough to have her back.

"Wonderful." AJ mumbled under his breath. "I'm her favorite."

 Howie kicked AJ hard in the shin and mouthed "Outside now!" The two men left the room.

 "I apologize for what Jace said. You never know what's going to come out of teenagers' mouths." Kat whispered quietly.  

 Kevin shook his head. "We're the ones who need to apologize. J's been a jerk all day. He's not usually like that. He's having some issues...."

 "But that's not an excuse for his behavior." Nick interjected.

 "It's fine. I understand."

 “Thank you for being gracious about his behavior but it’s not fine.”  Brian said to her.

 Before things got any more uncomfortable, Kevin offered to have Kat be a guest at the show they were doing that night.

 “I appreciate the offer but you don’t have to do that. I don’t think my presence there would be such a good thing, especially for AJ.”

 “Well, it’s not up to him. We would love to have you and a friend join us and we’re not taking no for an answer.” Brian replied with a smile.

 Kat smiled back. “I guess I have no choice then.”

 “Nope.” Nick said. “Why don’t you give us your address and we’ll send a car for you?”

 ----------------------------- 

Kat changed her outfit nine times before she settled on a blue cotton sweater and tank top and a black pair of slacks.

 “You look fine.” Brenda said exasperated. Kat was still staring at the other outfits.

 “I can’t take this anymore! Stop changing outfits or I’m not going with you!”

 “But..”

 “No buts! The outfit you have on is beautiful, you look wonderful and if we don’t finish getting ready, we’re going to miss our ride over there.”

 “Okay, okay.” Kat put her hands up in the air. “No more changes.”

 “Good!”

 The girls were just finishing up when they heard the doorbell ring and when they answered it, they were shocked to see that the guys had sent a limo to pick them up.

 “Wow! These guys are impressive!”

 Kat laughed. “Are you sure you’re not getting a little excited about the show.”

 “Oh totally not. It’s going to be such a drag.” Brenda teased her friend. “Let’s go!”

 ----------------------- 

The show was amazing and the guys have given them great seats right in front of the stage. They had even given them backstage passes so they could come back after the concert.

 Kat and Brenda found Brian on the phone in the hallway looking agitated but, when he saw them, he waved and pointed to one of the dressing rooms. They walked in and Kevin sounded like he was on the same phone call. They noticed that AJ was absent from the group and Kat’s stomach sank. She didn’t want to cause any problems between the guys.

 “Maybe we shouldn’t be back here. We don’t want to invade your privacy.” Kat said to Nick.

 “No.” he sighed. “It’s fine.”

 “What’s the matter?” asked Brenda.

 “Easter is this weekend and we’re going to be stuck here doing press stuff. Leighanne and Kristen aren’t thrilled about it.”

 “I can understand why. It’s lousy being away from your family on the holidays. You probably are used to it.”

 “Unfortunately we are.” Nick said. “We’ll probably go out to eat or something.”

 Brenda broke into a smile. “I have a better idea.”

 Kat looked at her and realized what she was thinking. She was going to strangle her friend if she suggested what Kat thought she was going to.

 “Kat and I are going to visit her family. Her aunt has a big Easter thing and she loves to have the company.”

 Kat wanted to die.

 “Thank you for the offer but we can’t intrude on your holiday.”

 “It’s no intrusion.” Brenda said. “Her aunt has a huge house and Kat’s family always loves to meet her friends.”

 Howie smiled. “So now we’re friends huh?”

 Kat almost passed out from embarrassment.

 “Of course!” Brenda said. “Like Brian said earlier, we won’t take no for an answer.” She paused. “In fact, Kat can call her aunt right now and check with her.”

 Kat gave Brenda a look that basically said “I’m going to kill you when we leave!”

 “Would you mind having us tag along?” Nick asked, turning to face Kat.

 She couldn’t get her mind to move fast enough so Brenda answered for her.

 “She doesn’t mind at all, do you?”

 Kat shook her head no. “Is this going to be a serious problem for AJ? He wasn’t happy to visit today and spending more time with me might be worse.”

 “Let us worry about him. We’ll duct tape his mouth closed if we have to!” Kevin interjected coming back into the room.

 “Call your aunt now so the guys know it’s fine to come.” Brenda said digging out her phone.

 Kat turned away so the guys couldn’t see her and mouthed “I will pay you back for this!”

Brenda punched in Aunt Gina’s phone number and handed the phone to Kat with a smirk on her face.

 “Hi Aunt Gina.”

 Everyone could only hear her side of the conversation.

 “I’m fine. How are you?”

 Brenda smiled.

 “Yes, Brenda and I are still coming down for Easter. That’s actually why I was calling. Would you mind if I brought some other people with me?”

 Kat nodded her head and mouthed “She said it’s fine.”

 Brenda grabbed the phone.

 “It’s five guys Aunt Gina. Do you know who the Backstreet Boys are?” she asked and handed the phone back to Kat.

 “Yes Aunt Gina. She said the Backstreet Boys and no, I am not going crazy. They’re standing in front of me right now.”

 Kevin and Howie started laughing.

“No, I swear I’m not hallucinating.” Kat wanted to crawl into a hole right now and die from embarrassment.

 Now Nick and Brian were doubled over laughing.

 “Thanks Aunt Gina. We’ll see you Sunday.”

 Kat hung up and told the guys they were more than welcome at her aunt’s house. She gave them the address and told them dinner was at one. They thanked her for letting them tag along and she actually prayed that they were doing it to be nice and they weren’t really going to come. She wasn’t sure she could handle any more humiliation.

 Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t that lucky.

Chapter 6 by Kyrie

Kat, her cousins Chris, Michael, and Mark were sitting with Brenda on her aunt’s back porch just enjoying the beautiful day.

“I hope Aunt Gina finishes making dinner soon. I’m starving!” Chris said.

Michael laughed. “When are you not dude?”

 Kat had always gotten along with these three the best and she loved getting a chance to hang out with them.

“You guys had better be first in line then since there’s thirty–five people here.”

 Kat’s family was huge and they all came together for family holidays.

 “Apparently, we’re in for some more company.” Mark said pointing to the Traverse that had just pulled into the driveway.

Kat couldn’t think of anyone who was missing. She was wracking her brain and then she suddenly remembered that she had invited the Backstreet Boys to Easter dinner.

 “Oh dear god.” she groaned.

 She watched as the guys stepped out carrying flowers and cookies.

 “Is that who I think it is Kat?” Chris said teasing his cousin. “Ohhhh, Kat’s blushing. She likes a boy!”

She turned to her three cousins. “I will physically harm you all if you so much as utter anything that embarrasses me. Do you understand me?” She drove her point home by punching Chris is the arm as hard as she could.

 The boys nodded.

 Aunt Gina must have seen the car pull in too because she came out onto the porch to greet the new guests.

 “Hi guys!” she said waving at them from the stairs. “Come on up!”

 Brian was the first one up and thanked her for having them over. Her aunt hugged him and said that she always welcomed Kat’s friends.

 Nick, Howie and Kevin came up next followed in the rear by AJ who was not looking at all excited to be there. The guys had warned him to be polite even if he’s wasn’t happy and they made it clear that he would suffer consequences if he didn’t.

 “Hi Kat.” Brian said, hugging her and introducing himself to her cousins. “Hi Brenda.”

 Brenda smiled. “Hi guys. How are you?”

 “Good.” Nick said. “Something smells really good.”

 Aunt Gina laughed. “You got here just in time. Dinner’s ready.”

 With that, the guys and Kat’s cousins made a beeline for the house leaving the women standing there laughing.

 ----------------------------------

Everyone had just finished eating when Chris jumped up from the table.

 “So who’s up for football?”

 Nick, Brian, Howie and Kevin looked puzzled while AJ just sat there not really paying attention to anyone.

“I thought football was over in February?” Nick asked not understanding.

“Not Brady football!” Michael and Mark said in unison.

“Brady football?” Brian was equally as confused.

Kat laughed. “It’s a Brady tradition. We usually pick a sport to play after each holiday dinner. I guess we’re doing football this time.”

 “Just a friendly head’s up. It’s also a Brady tradition that someone gets hurt during the game and could possibly require a hospital visit!” Brenda added.

 “Oh c’mon Brenda, we’re not that bad!” Chris said.

“Yeah right!” she retorted. “Remember when you almost broke my nose during volleyball and almost took out your aunt’s fence tackling Kat the last time we played football.”

 “The girls play?” AJ finally asked.

 “Yes we do.” Kat snapped. “It’s not right to make an assumption that because I’m a girl or not in the best physical shape that I can’t be good at a sport.”

 “Gotcha!” Nick whispered at AJ. “You deserved that one!”

 “Shut up Nick.” AJ said glaring at him. He didn’t like the attitude but he realized it came across the same way his comment did the other day.

 Chris ignored the other conversation. “Yeah, Kat’s got a great arm and Brenda is one of the fastest runners.”

 “Why don’t we play Brenda, Kat, Nick, Brian and me on one team and AJ, Mike, Chris, Howie and Kevin on the other?” Mark asked the boys.

 “Both girls on one team? Is that fair?” Howie asked.

 Brenda and Kat laughed. “Don’t worry about us!”

 --------------------- 

The guys were amazed at how well Kat and Brenda played.  They had decided to do touch football only because the five guys weren’t ok with tackling girls they hardly knew. Kat’s team was up by three touchdowns and Nick kept rubbing it in AJ’s face. He was trying to egg him on so that he would try a little harder to play. He thought he was being funny.

 AJ, on the other hand, was getting really irritated with Nick. He was to the point that if Nick said one more thing, AJ would knock him into the ground the next time he had a chance.

 “C’mon ladies!” Nick yelled at Howie and AJ. “You guys better step up your game!”

 AJ had enough. As soon as Chris said hike, AJ barreled down at Nick shoulder first. Nick saw he was coming and stepped out of the way not realizing that Kat was right behind him. Unable to stop the momentum, AJ tackled Kat sending her to the ground and knocking the wind out of her.

 

Chapter 7 by Kyrie

“Oh my god!” AJ yelled. He rolled over and knelt up near Kat. “I am so sorry.”

 He really meant it. He had been such a jackass lately and now he plowed this woman down because he was trying to go after Nick.

 It took a few moments for Kat to catch her breath.

 “It’s fine.” she whispered. “I’ve gotten worse. Can I get a hand up?”

 “Absolutely!” AJ said standing and reached out for her hand. Once she was standing, he apologized again.

 Kat held up her hand. “It’s fine really. I’m ok.”

“Good job Gracie!” Chris yelled over to his cousin.

 “Shut up Chris!”

 Chris was just about to tease his cousin again when Aunt Gina came out and announced that dessert was ready. Everyone except for Kat and AJ went charging up the back stairs into the house.

 “Gracie?” AJ asked after everyone was gone.

Kat chuckled. “Chris calls me that anytime I do something that’s not graceful.”

 AJ shook his head. “I really am sorry.” He paused for a moment. “I owe you an apology for the way I’ve been acting too. The issues I’m dealing with aren’t your fault and I have been a complete ass to you.” He paused again. “I hope you’ll accept my apology.”

 Kat smiled at him. “Apology accepted.”

 AJ smiled back and stuck out his hand. “Let me try this again. I’m AJ and it’s very nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too.” Kat said. “Maybe we should head back up to the house before the guys eat your dessert too!”

 AJ laughed. “Knowing Nick, he already has!”

 -------------------------- 

The guys hung out with Kat’s family for a few more hours. Even AJ had decided to put aside his issues and he had to admit that Kat was great and it was fun being around her family. The guys hated to leave but they knew they had an interview in the morning so they had to say their goodbyes and head back to the hotel. Kat walked them out and thanked them for coming.

“Thank you for inviting us today.” Brian said. “It’s always nice to have a friendly place to go when we can’t be around family.”

 Howie echoed his sentiment. “Your family is terrific and it was so nice of them to have us over. We really appreciate it.”

Kat grinned. “I know it was hard being away from your families but we loved having you here. I’m glad you guys could make it.” The guys hugged Kat and all climbed into the Traverse except for AJ. He had pulled Kat aside, out of earshot of the SUV.

 “Thank you for inviting me even though I’ve been a complete ass to you. I really do appreciate it.” He paused for a minute. “You know, you’re really a great person and I’m sorry I was a jerk.”

 “Like I said, apology accepted.” she said with a smile. “Thank you for coming.”

 AJ hugged her and turned to go back to the car. He stopped after a few steps and then went back to where she was standing.  “Do you mind us calling you the next time we’re in Boston? It would be nice to hang out again.”

 Kat was floored by the question. “Ok.” was all she could manage and she gave AJ her phone number.

 “Thanks.” he said hugging her again. “Talk to you soon!”

 Kat watched as the guys drove away and was amazed at how much she had enjoyed their company.

 

Chapter 8 by Kyrie

It was a few weeks later and Kat was racing around her house trying to find her house keys. Brenda was picking her up to go to the movies and Kat couldn’t remember where she had put them. Her phone started to ring and she picked it up.

 “Just hold on one second Brenda, I can’t find my house keys. I promise I’ll be out in a second.”

 The voice on the other line laughed and Kat realized that it wasn’t Brenda.

“Who’s this?” she asked not recognizing the number.

 “It’s AJ. I was just calling to say hi and to see how you were feeling since I hit you pretty hard.”

 Kat’s face lit up and she sank down onto the couch.

“I’m fine. Not ready for another game yet but I’m getting there.”

“Good to know. Maybe we should pick a game next time that doesn’t involve tackling anyone.”

Next time? There was going to be a next time? All of a sudden, Kat lost her ability to talk.

 “Hello Kat? Are you still there?” AJ asked after a few seconds of silence.

 “Oh sorry. I’m here.”

 AJ chuckled. “Good. I thought maybe you were having second thoughts about accepting my apology.”

 “Nope, the thought never crossed my mind.”

 AJ went silent for a minute. He had wanted to ask her something but he was having a hard time figuring out how to say it.

 “AJ? Are you there?”

 “Yep. I kind of called for another reason. Nick and I are coming back out to Boston at the end of the month to do some writing with a producer out there. We’ll be there for a couple of days and I thought maybe we could all hang out again.”

 Kat didn’t know what to say.

 “Unless of course you’re busy. I know it’ll be June and your school year is going to end. I just thought maybe you wouldn’t mind the company.”

 She still didn’t say anything. AJ felt like a complete idiot for even asking.

 “Never mind. It’s probably….”

 “Yes.”

 “Yes? Yes to company or yes to being too busy for company.”

 “Yes to company.” Kat said with a smile. She couldn’t see it but AJ’s face had broken out into a huge grin.

 “Great! I’ll call you in a couple of days when we work out all the details.”

 “Ok. Bye AJ.”

 “Bye Kat.”

 Kat hung up the phone and sat on the couch. Brenda came in a few minutes later to find her best friend sitting on the couch gazing at nothing with a stupid grin on her face.

 “Have you lost your marbles again?”

 Kat snapped back into reality. “No.” she said and her smile widen.

 “What’s with the dopey grin then?”

 “AJ and Nick are coming back out here at the end of the month and they want to hang out with us.”

 “Seriously?” Brenda asked.

 “Yup.” Kat jumped up from the couch and pulled her friend into a hug. She proceeded to jump around the room while Brenda just sat back and laughed at her. She hadn’t seen her friend this happy in a while.

------------------------------ 

AJ and Nick flew out at the end of the month just like they said and Kat met them at the airport. They both hugged her and told her they were happy to see her again.

 “It’s nice to see you guys too.”

 “Nice?” AJ asked teasing her. He and Kat had talked to each other frequently over the last month and he felt very comfortable with her. They found out that they actually had a lot in common and really enjoyed each other’s company even if it was only over the phone.

 Kat laughed. “Ok. Very nice. How’s that?”

 “Better but not great. We’ll have to work on your vocabulary.”

 “Hey!” she said slapping his arm. “I’m the math teacher not the English teacher, remember? That’s Brenda’s department.”

 AJ was surprised by the slap. The only contact they ever had was just a hug and of course the ill-fated tackle. He had to admit that he liked this playful side of Kat and he put his arm around her shoulder.

 “Let’s get out of here before people start to recognize us.”

 The trio, along with Marcus and Ray, the boys’ bodyguards, picked up their luggage and headed to the airport.

Chapter 9 by Kyrie

“I’m sorry Mr. McLean. For some reason, there isn’t a reservation for you and there are no rooms available.”

 AJ was fit to be tied. The new assistant that management hired had no idea what she was doing and this wasn’t the first screw up.

 “Are you sure there’s nothing available?” Nick asked. “We’ll take anything.”

The hotel manager shook his head. “Unfortunately, we have a conference this weekend and we’re booked solid. I can call around to some of the area hotels but they fill up for the same conferences we do.”

 “Thanks but we’ll figure something out.”

AJ went back to where Kat and the bodyguards were sitting.

 “We don’t have a room.”

 “What do you mean, you don’t have a room?” Marcus asked.

 “The new idiot they hired screwed up and didn’t book us a room here. She probably booked us a room in Japan somewhere!” AJ was pissed and it was hard to control his frustration.

 Nick nodded. “And to top it off, there are no rooms available here or anywhere else in the 30 mile radius.”

 “What are we going to do then?” Ray joined the conversation.

 Kat was so wrapped up in listening to them talk that she didn’t realize she had started talking too.

 “What Kat?” AJ said bringing her out of her daze.

 “Why don’t you stay at my place?”

 “Um, you have enough room for all four of us? We can’t let the boys stay somewhere without us.” Marcus reminded her.

 Kat nodded. “My house is big enough. I have three bedrooms and two pull out sofas in my basement. I have three bathrooms too.”

 Everyone just stared at her.

 “What? My family hangs out at my house too and I needed a big enough space for everyone.”

AJ shook his head. “Thanks Kat, but that’s putting you out too much. You don’t need to open up your house to all of us.”

 Nick smacked him in the shoulder. “Speak for yourself dude. I’m not wandering around trying to find a place to sleep. We have a lot to do and if Kat’s willing to share her space, then I’m all for accepting it.”

 Ray and Marcus nodded in agreement. “This way you guys are together and we can stay too. We’ll take the pull outs in the basement, Kat, and the boys can have the two bedrooms.”

 AJ turned to face Kat. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

 Kat smiled at him. “Of course. Anything for you guys.”

 ---------------------------------- 

Kat’s house was a three bedroom ranch with a finished basement and a loft over the detached garage. She had a huge backyard and an in ground pool that had just been opened. There were several gardens in front and in back of the house and they looked beautiful. The guys walked in and got the same feeling for the inside.

 There was a huge kitchen and it opened up into the dining area and the living room.  There were three bedrooms and two bathrooms to the right of the living room and the stairs leading down to the basement were on the other side of the kitchen. There was a large slider in the dining area that led out onto the back porch.

 “Wow! This is amazing Kat.”

 “Thanks.” she said with a smile. “Why don’t you guys get settled in and rest for a little while? I’m going to the grocery store and run some other errands. Anything you’d like?”

AJ shook his head not wanting to inconvenience her but Nick rattled off a list of things. AJ hit him on the arm.

"Dude this isn’t a tour rider! She doesn’t need to get everything for you.”

“Then I’ll go with her.”

 “No way!” Kat said. “I’m not getting mobbed by fans in the supermarket. I’ll get the stuff you asked for Nick and I’ll wake you guys up for dinner.”

 She waved at them and left. The guys decided to take her advice and get some rest after the long flight.

Chapter 10 by Kyrie

AJ woke up a few hours later to a delicious smell wafting down to his room from the kitchen. He got up, stretched and made his way down the hall to find Kat and Brenda sitting in the kitchen.

 “What smells so good?” he asked with a smile.

 “Lasagna and garlic bread. One of Kat’s specialties.”

 “Damn girl! You teach, play sports and cook. What do you do in all your spare time?” AJ winked, teasing Kat.

 She hit him with the dish towel she was holding and got up to get some plates.

 “Let me help you with that.”

 As AJ reached up to grab the dishes, their hands brushed and both of them looked down. Brenda sat back and smiled at how shy they both were being.

Kat stepped away and let AJ take out the plates and set the table while Brenda went to wake up everyone else.

“Thanks for doing that AJ.”

 “I’ll do anything you need.” He realized how that sounded and he tried to recover. “I mean like set the table, take out some trash, ummm…”

Kat laughed. “I get it and I appreciate it.”

 AJ smiled. He appreciated Kat always trying to bail him out when he said something that came out wrong.

 Everyone gathered in the kitchen to eat and they spent dinner sharing stories and jokes. AJ relaxed and he was impressed by Kat’s cooking skills. She promised to cook for them whenever they were around at the house. When everyone was done, they cleared their plates and Nick offered to do the dishes.

 “Thanks Nick, but I’m good. I know you guys need to get up in the morning so I’ll finish up here.”

 “Ok, you don’t have to twist my arm!” Nick hugged Kat and thanked her again for the hospitality. Marcus, Ray and he headed off to get some sleep while Brenda offered to help with the dishes.

 “It’s fine Brenda really. You have a long ride home and I know you have your weekend class tomorrow. Don’t worry about it.”

 AJ interrupted the conversation. “I got this Brenda. I’ll help her finish them.”

 “Are you sure?” Brenda asked trying to hide a yawn.

 Kat laughed. “Yes, we’re sure. Go home!”

 Brenda smiled at her friend. “Ok. See you on Monday.” She hugged Kat and promised to text her when she got home.

 AJ had started the dishes by the time Kat got back to the kitchen.

 “Hey, you don’t have to do that. I can finish them. You need to get some rest.”

 Kat reached out for the sponge as AJ was turning around and he wound up hitting her chin with it. The bubbles went all over her face and her eyes got huge.

 “Oh no, no, no, no! I’m so sorry Kat. I didn’t mean to do that.”

 Kat narrowed her eyes at him. AJ was so distracted looking for a towel and trying to avoid her eyes that he didn’t see her reach over for the spray attachment from the sink. She pulled it out and soaked him with water.

 AJ turned to face her and it made her burst out laughing. His head was dripping from all the water and he had an expression of shock all over his face.

“I can’t believe you did that. You brat!”

 AJ grabbed the sprayer and soaked Kat’s head. She yelped as the cold water hit her face and she ran to duck behind the counter. He put the sprayer back and pretended he was coming around one side of the island and decided to cut to the other side once Kat was distracted. Sneaking up behind her, he started tickling her and they both wound up on the ground.

 Both were laughing so hard that neither one could breathe.  Kat was about to ask for mercy when AJ’s cell phone rang.

 “Stop AJ! You’d better get that. It might be important.”

 AJ dragged himself into a sitting position and pulled out his phone.

 “We are not finished with this lady!” he said and opened his phone. “Hello?”

 Kat lay on the ground and watched AJ’s facial expression change from funny to serious in less than five seconds.

 “Nothing. I told you I would call you later. Why are you acting like this?”

 He stood up, pulled open the slider and walked outside. Kat pulled herself up and walked over to the sink. She didn’t want to listen in on his conversation but he was getting pretty loud.

 “No, I’m not at the hotel. There were no rooms so we’re staying with a friend. Why does it matter if it’s a woman or not Michelle?”

 Kat watched as he paced back and forth.

 “She’s just a friend! What is your problem?”

 Whoever he was talking to must have hung up because he slammed his phone onto the table and sank into one of the chairs on the deck.

 “Everything ok?” Kat asked, stepping out onto the deck.

 “Just dandy.” AJ snapped. He instantly regretted giving Kat an attitude.

 “Girlfriend?”

 “Yeah.”

 “I’m sorry if you staying here is causing problems for you.”

 “It’s not you. She has a problem with everything I do and anything I say. She’s driving me nuts.”

 “I know this is probably none of my business, but why do you stay with her?”

 If any of the guys had asked AJ that question he would have bitten their head off but Kat was different. She was genuinely concerned for him and he appreciated that.

 “Honestly Kat? I have no idea.” He shook his head. “We’ve been together for a long time and I’m afraid to let her go and run the risk of not meeting some. I don’t exactly have the best track record for being a boyfriend.”

 Kat sighed. “That was the past AJ. You’re a terrific guy and anyone would be lucky to have you as their boyfriend.”

 AJ smiled at her. “Thanks Kat. You always know what to say.”

 “That’s why they pay me the big bucks!” she said laughing. She stood up and reached out her hand. “C’mon, you promised me you’d help with dishes.”

 AJ took her hand and followed her back into the house.  He wished he felt as comfortable with everyone else as he did with her.

 -------------------------

The weekend flew by and before they knew it, AJ and Nick were heading back to California. Kat took the day off from work to bring them to the airport. All the guys were sad to be leaving. They had grown to love Kat and it was always enjoyable spending time with her.

 “Call me or text me when you guys land so I know you got there safely ok?” Kat asked giving AJ a hug.

 “I promise Kat.” He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you for this weekend. I’m going to miss not having you around when I get home.”

 “Oh please McLean! You’ll find some other good looking girl to hang around with and you’ll forget all about me.”

 He leaned in close to her ear. “Not a chance Brady. No one is as good looking as you.”

 Kat felt the heat rush up to her face. AJ pulled back, smiled and winked at her.

 “Don’t miss me too much Brady.”

 “I’ll try not to. Don’t forget to call me when you get back.”

“I won’t, I swear.” He pulled her into a bear hug and kissed her cheek again.  “See you soon!”

 The guys all waved at Kat as they headed through the boarding gate.  As soon as they were gone, Kat bolted out of the airport and headed down to Brenda’s house.

 

Chapter 11 by Kyrie

The next month flew by for both Kat and AJ. She was finishing teaching and getting ready for summer vacation and he was recording songs with the guys for their next album. They tried to talk regularly but it was hard with AJ having a different schedule. Unlike Michelle, Kat understood his passion for music and supported him even from a distance. It seemed like he and Michelle were constantly arguing and he was getting to the point where he couldn’t take it anymore.

 Kat was getting ready for bed one Friday night when her cell phone rang.

 “Hi AJ! How are you?”

 “I did it.”

 “Huh?” Kat was confused. “You did what?”

 “I broke up with Michelle.”

 Thank God, Kat said in her head. It’s about damn time!

 “I’m sorry AJ. I wish there was something I could do.”

“Well, there actually is something you could do.”

 “Just tell me what you need.”

 “Can you come down and open your front door?”

 “Excuse me?”

 “I’m standing on your porch and I’m hoping you’ll let me in before someone calls the police about an intruder.”

 “Oh shit. I’ll be right down.”

 Kat bolted down the stairs and pulled open her front door. AJ was standing there with a duffel bag over his shoulder.

“What are you moving in?” Kat teased him.

 “Brat!” he said and stuck his tongue out at her. “I’m not moving in but I was hoping that I could spend a couple of days here. Do you mind?”

 “Of course not AJ. You’re welcome anytime, I already told you that. Come in.”

 He smiled. “I know that but I like to hear you say it!”

 “You’re being a brat now.” she said closing the door after him. “When did you get here?”

 “About an hour ago.” He looked at her and realized that she was about to go to bed.  “Want me to come back in the morning?”

 Kat looked down at her pajamas. “No, it’s fine. I wasn’t that tired anyway.”

 He grinned. “Good! I was hoping we could hang out before you got too tired.”

 “Why don’t you go dump your stuff in your room…”

 He looked at her and raised one eyebrow. “Ohhhh, now I have a room here. Good to know!”

 Kat blushed. “Shut up McLean before I kick you out and make you sleep on the sidewalk.”

 “Hey, hey, no need for threats.” He raised both hands. “I’ll just go put my stuff down in MY room and I’ll come right back.”

 AJ booked it down the hall to avoid the pillow she threw at him. “You’re lucky you’re cute buddy!”

 “Ooooo, I have my own room and now I’m cute!” he said sticking his head out the doorway.

 Kat threw another pillow down the hallway whacking him in the head. “Keep it up! It sucks sleeping on asphalt!”

 She shook her head when she heard him laugh and went to get some drinks from the kitchen.

 ------------------------------------ 

Another weekend flew by and AJ knew Monday was the last day of classes for her. He picked her up after work and they drove down to the Cape to have dinner and sit by the beach. This was the last full day they got before he had to head back home.

 Kat was quiet the whole ride down and AJ was starting to worry that something was wrong with her.

 “Hey, are you ok?” he asked and reached over to grab her hand.

 Kat looked down as he covered her hand with his own.  “I’m fine. I’m going to miss these kids and having the whole summer off kind of stinks. Brenda works for part of it and I’m stuck at home by myself.”

 AJ had planned on asking her to come see him in California over dinner but decided now would be the perfect time.

 “Then why don’t you come visit me for a while?”

 Kat looked stunned. “What?”

 AJ smiled and repeated himself. “Come out and spend part of the summer with me.  You told me once that you’ve never been to California so this would be the perfect time.”

“I appreciate the offer but you’re going to be working and I can’t afford a hotel for too long. I can find stuff to do here.”

“We have some time off in July so come out then. And you can stay with me.”

 Kat shook her head. “That would be bad for you. A woman staying at your place. The media would have a field day. And to top it off, Michelle would be pissed.  I don’t want to create any more issues for you.”

 “Did you not hear me the other night? I broke up with Michelle. What she wants doesn’t matter.” AJ paused for a minute. “Please Kat. Come out for me. I miss you when you’re not around.”

 Kat was shocked. AJ surprised himself too. He’d wanted to say that for a while but he could never get up the nerve.

 “Please Kat? I’ll keep begging until you say yes, you know that right?”

 She laughed and told him she’d think about it. “Let’s just enjoy dinner for now and then we can talk about a visit.”

------------------------------

After dinner, they walked across the dunes to the beach outside of the restaurant. The sun was setting and the view was gorgeous. They decided to sit down on one of the dunes so they could watch the water and the sun finish sitting.  AJ sat down first and, instead of letting Kat sit next to him, he pulled her down so she was sitting between his legs with her back to him.

 “What exactly are you doing?” Kat asked with a smile.

 “Making myself comfortable.” He wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her shoulder.

 They sat there for a few minutes before AJ broke the silence.

 “So, are you coming to California?”

 Kat grinned. “Are you still on that subject? I thought I said we talk about it later.”

 “It is later. Please come? You know I can be as annoying as any teenager out there when I don’t get my own way right?”

 “I’m starting to get that feeling.” She started laughing. “You’re relentless.”

 “Am I going to get my way or do I have to keep bugging you?” He waited a minute. “You know I can play dirty. I could call Brenda or your aunt and have them badger you so you’ll give in.”

 She turned to face him. “You wouldn’t dare!”

 AJ pulled his phone out. “I might even have Chris’ number in here. Let me see……”

Kat lunged for his phone but he was too quick. He jumped up and ran a few steps away. “Oh, I do have Michael’s number. Maybe I’ll call him too.” He started dialing the phone.

 She stood up and threw her hands in the air. “Alright, you win! I’ll come out and visit you.”

 “YES!” AJ yelled and started jumping up and down. “I win!”

 “Only because you use cheap tricks!”

 He came over and put his arm around her waist. “Whatever works.” He smiled and kissed her on the cheek. They drove back to the house so that AJ could pack and sleep before he had to catch his early flight.

Chapter 12 by Kyrie

“You’re what?” Brenda asked staring at her friend across the table.

 Kat sighed. “I’m going to visit AJ in California.”

 “Why again?”

 “Because he asked me to.”

 Brenda just shook her head. “Do you really think now is a good time?”

“What’s with you? Why do you have such a problem with me going out there?”

 “I’m concerned.” Brenda said. “I love you and I’m concerned.”

 Kat was confused. “Why are you concerned?”

 “Because I see the way you look at him.”

 “I don’t look at him…..”

 “Yes you do.” Brenda said firmly. “You may not see it but I do. You’re falling for him Kat.”

 She sat there stunned. She knew she was starting to have feelings for AJ but she tried to hide it.

 “You suck at trying to hide these things from me.” Brenda said almost like she was reading her mind.

 Kat knew there was no way she was getting this one past Brenda. They had been through a lot together and Brenda could always see right through her.

 “It doesn’t matter if I am or I’m not. Nothing’s gonna happen anyway.”

 “I’m not so sure about that.  I can see that AJ cares for you too.”

“I’m not his type Brenda.”

 “Again, not so sure about that.” She sighed. “I want you to be happy, you know that right. I just want you to take things slow.”

 “Look, I promise just to go out and visit. Nothing else is going to happen. It’s just two friends hanging out together.”

“Yeah right! If you truly believe that then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.”

 Kat laughed.  “You’re such a goofball.”

 “I know, but you love me!” Brenda smiled and came around to hug her friend. “Just do me a favor and ease into it ok?”

 “I will.”

 ------------------------------- 

AJ waited with Marcus at the gate for Kat’s flight. People stared at him but he didn’t care. All he wanted to do was see Kat.  He spotted her coming out of the boarding ramp, ran over, picked her up and swung her around.

 Kat started giggling and tried to pull away. “AJ, get off. Everyone in the airport is staring.”

 “Who cares? I hardly ever get to see you and I don’t care who knows how excited I am. They’ll get over it!”

 “I’m going to agree with her J.” Marcus said. “Hug her all you want in the car but let’s get out of here before we cause a commotion.”

 “Fine.” AJ said and put her down. “Let’s go. I have a surprise for you anyway!”

 Kat groaned. “I don’t like surprises.”

 “You’re gonna love this one!” AJ said with a twinkle in his eye.

 

Chapter 13 by Kyrie

Denise, the guys and the wives finished setting up the party at AJ’s house while he was at the airport getting Kat.  Nick was excited to see her again since he had gotten to know her better than the other guys. The boys had decided to start the grill and play with a few of the lawn games while Denise and the girls chatted on the patio.

 “I wonder what this girl is like." Leigh said to the other women.

 “I have no idea but I know J turns into a little kid when he talks about her. He’s like a 5 year old with a crush!” Leighanne replied laughing.

 “Let’s just pray that she’s nothing like Michelle!” Kristen added.

 Denise was thinking the same thing. She strongly disliked Michelle but she never said that to Alex because she didn’t want to push her son away.  This new girl sounded nice but so did Michelle at first. She could only hope that he was just going to be friends with her and take some time to figure his life out before he tried to start up anything.

 "What do you think Denise?" Leigh asked breaking her out of her daze.

 Denise thought about it for a minute. "I'm just concerned. It seems like she's been good for him but I really don't want him to jump into anything. He needs to take some time and focus on himself. Give himself a chance to deal with the break up from Michelle."

 "That's something to be happy about!" Kristen interjected.

 Nick came running over. "Get ready, they're here!"

 Everyone took their spots and prepared to meet Kat.

 ------------------------------

 “Oh my god AJ! This is a surprise. Your house is amazing!” Kat exclaimed walking through the front door. The house was huge, had tons of windows and a very open floor plan.

 “Glad you like it!” AJ said with a grin. “Why don’t we head out to the backyard and I’ll give you the full tour.”

 He pulled the curtain aside on the slider and Kat stepped out.

 “Surprise!”

 Kat almost fell backward but AJ was able to catch her. She was shocked to find all these people waiting here including AJ’s mom.

“How come you didn’t mention this to me?” Kat whispered in his ear.

 “Because then it wouldn’t be a surprise! Is this a vocabulary thing again?” AJ said, teasing her, and pushed her towards Nick.

 “Funny McLean!” Kat said over her shoulder.

 Nick swept her up in a hug spinning her around. “I’ve missed you Brady. Glad J was finally able to convince you to come out here.”

 “Thanks Nick. I missed you too!”

 She hugged all the guys and was introduced to their wives.  AJ finally snagged her and brought his mom over.

 “Mom this is Kat, Kat this is my mom.”

 Kat had been nervous about this meeting. She hadn’t expected it to come as soon as it did but she worried that she wouldn’t make a good first impression. They weren’t dating but they were friends and she wanted his mother to like her.

 “Hi Mrs. McLean, it’s very nice to meet you.” Kat stuck out her hand.

Denise returned the handshake. “It’s nice to meet you too Kat. Alex’s told me all about you.”

 Kat couldn’t help but notice that his mom didn’t seem all that happy about her being here and she worried that this was going to cause some problems.

“Hey everyone, food’s ready!” Kevin yelled. Everybody grabbed food and a seat. 

 AJ stood up as Nick was putting in a mouthful. “Before you guys start eating,” he said looking at Nick, “I want to make a toast. Thank you to all of you for setting up this party and thank you to Kat for agreeing to come out here. I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks!”

 “Here, here!” Nick yelled between mouthfuls. Everyone burst out laughing.

 ------------- 

Kat offered to do the dishes after dinner and Leighanne and Leigh told her they would help. Kristen and Kevin had to head home early to get Mason from the babysitter.

 “It’s nice to have you here Kat. Hopefully J won’t occupy all your time and we’ll get to see you again before you leave!” He hugged Kat while trying to avoid AJ’s swing.

 “Get out of here Richardson! She’s my friend, not yours, and I can occupy her time 24/7 if I feel like it!”

 “Wow J! Awfully possessive huh?” Kristen yelled over her shoulder as she followed Kevin out.

 “You get out too Richardson #2!” AJ yelled back, laughing.

 Nick, Howie and Brian offered to pick up all the lawn stuff and put it back in the shed.  AJ was going to help them but he noticed his mother sitting off to the side of the patio and was concerned.

 “Hey Ma.” he said and sat down next to her. “What’s up?”

 Denise smiled at him. “Nothing, I’m just tired.”

 AJ grinned. “Mom you suck at lying. You always have. What’s going on?”

 When she didn’t say anything for a few minutes, his stomach started to tighten up.

 “You don’t like Kat. That’s it right?”

 Denise sighed. “No sweetheart, she seems like a very nice girl. I just worry about you that’s all.”

 “Why are you worried?”

“Alex, you hardly know this girl and you invite her out to stay with you for a couple of weeks. All I’m saying is be careful.”

 “I’ve known her for months now Ma! She’s a great person and I’m comfortable being around her. Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to feel that way?”

 Denise looked surprised. AJ hadn’t taken this tone with her for a while.

 “I’m sorry if I snapped at you Ma but I really like Kat. She’s nothing like Michelle. They’re polar opposites. Please take some time and get to know her. She’s important to me.”

 Denise looked her son in the eyes and saw emotions she had never seen before. He almost looked like he was pleading with her and she felt badly for treating Kat the way she did.

“I should be apologizing Alex. I should have been more welcoming. I just love you so much and don’t want to see you get hurt anymore.”

 AJ hugged his mother. “She’s not going to hurt me.”

 ----------------------- 

Everyone except for Denise left a few minutes later. She had asked Alex if she could have a talk with Kat before she headed home.

 “I want to apologize to her for not being more welcoming.”

AJ smiled at his mother. “Ok. Why don’t you have a seat in the living room and I’ll go get her.”

 Denise took a seat on the long couch and tried to figure out exactly what to say. She saw Kat approach her and asked her sit. AJ left to finish up some cleaning and let them have a few moments by themselves.

 “I’m sorry Kat for my behavior today. I should have been nicer to you.”

 Kat shook her head. “You don’t need to apologize Mrs. McLean.”

 “Call me Denise.”

 “Ok. I understand that AJ’s your son and that you only want what’s best for him. I also know that he’s had a rough time with finding people that he can trust and won’t take advantage of him. I promise you that I would never do that. I don’t like AJ because of his fame or his money.”

 Kat paused for a minute.

 “I like him because he’s him. When we met, we didn’t get off on the right foot and it made things very uncomfortable.  It wasn’t until after he tackled me…”

 Denise started to laugh. “I heard that story.”

 Kat smiled. “After he tackled me, we decided that we should start over. I value having AJ in my life and he means the world to me. I would like to have you get to know me better and I hope that I’ll be able to change your mind.”

 Denise was impressed that this girl was willing to put herself out like that. She could see in her eyes that Alex was really important to her and she promised her that she and Kat would spend some time together getting to know each other.

 “I think we should have lunch soon so I can talk to you without my son eavesdropping!” Denise said loudly. AJ blushed and poked his head around the corner.

 “Just checking on you two, that’s all!”

Kat was embarrassed that she had just spilled her guts to AJ’s mom and didn’t realize he was in earshot.

 Denise started to laugh. “I’m going to call it a night and let you guys get some rest.” She hugged her son and then surprised Kat by hugging her too.

 “I’ll call you tomorrow and we can plan some girl stuff ok?”

 Kat smiled. “That’s sounds great.”

 Denise left and the two of them sprawled out on the couch. AJ stretched out and put his head on Kat’s lap.

 “Sooooo, you value me huh?”

“AJ!”

 “What?” he asked laughing. “I couldn’t help listening. I had to make sure you two were getting along.”

 “MYOB!”

 “What the hell does that mean?”

 “Mind your own business! Do you need to have a vocabulary lesson?”

 “You’re real cute Brady! At least I know that I mean the world to you!”

 Kat pushed AJ off the couch and he landed on the floor.

 “What was that for?”

 “Being a wise ass!” Kat said with a smile. “I’m tired. Let’s get some sleep.”

 “Alright, alright.”

 AJ took her upstairs and gave her a quick tour so she knew where everything was.

 “Which room is mine?”

 “This one.” he said opening a door.

 She burst out laughing.

 “That’s your room!”

 AJ grinned. “Oops, sorry, my mistake.”

 “Yeah right. Mistake my butt! You really think you’re funny don’t you?”

 “Actually I think I’m hilarious!”

 “Of course you do Mr. Modesty.”

 AJ led her over to the door next to his.

 “This one’s yours. Try and get some rest. Let me know if you need anything. Water, another pillow, light.” He had to use every ounce of self-control in his body to not add “me” to the end of that statement.

 “Thanks AJ.” Kat said and kissed him on the cheek. “Sweet dreams.”

 AJ didn’t think that was going to be a problem.

Chapter 14 by Kyrie

Kat awoke the next morning to the shrill sound of a smoke detector. She could smell something burning and rushed down the stairs into the kitchen. She found AJ standing in the middle of room swinging a broom at the smoke detector.

 “Fucking stupid thing! Stop ringing!”

 Kat doubled over laughing.

 AJ turned at the sound of her laugh and realized what he must look like standing there like an idiot. He didn’t even know what to say.

Kat had been laughing so hard that she had tears in her eyes and had actually sank to the floor on her knees.

 “What the hell are you doing?” she asked still unable to control her laughter.

 “I’m trying to make you breakfast.” AJ said watching her laugh.

“I don’t think it’s working out well for you.” Kat said standing back up.

 “I guess you can’t appreciate my culinary skills.”

 Kat walked over to the stove, turned it off and put the burning pan in the sink. She crossed over and opened the slider to let some air in.

 “Sweetheart, your culinary skills suck. Are you trying to burn down your house?”

 “Thanks Brady. You really know how to make a guy feel loved and appreciated.” He flicked her in the butt with a towel.

 “Ow! That hurt!”

 “Good!”

 Kat smacked him on the shoulder. “I’m going to let you buy me breakfast to make up for it!” She walked away and went upstairs to change.

 AJ grinned to himself and started cleaning up the mess he had made.

 ----------------------- 

They had just gotten back from breakfast when AJ’s cell phone rang.

 “Hello?”

 Kat couldn’t hear who was on the other line but AJ’s face told her he wasn’t happy.

 “What do you mean we have to go to Malibu tomorrow? I thought we were done with the recording?”

 Kat looked down at her feet.

 “Three days? Are you fucking kidding me?”

 His face got even redder.

 “So because some moron screwed up we have to give up three days to redo it?”

 Kat didn’t want to be the person on the other end of the line.

 “Fine! You have three days! No more!”

 AJ slammed the phone down on the counter. Kat wanted to say something but she didn’t want to make him angrier than he already was.

 “I guess you heard that huh?” AJ asked her.

 She smiled. “It was kind of hard to miss.” She paused. “So you have to leave tomorrow?”

 “Yeah.” He sighed. “Some idiot screwed up the sound mixing and deleted one of the songs. Now we have to go back in and record it.”

 He sat down on one of the stools in the kitchen.

 “I’m sorry Kat. I know I told you I would be done with work by the time you got here.”

 Kat nodded. “I know but stuff happens AJ. You have an important job and you have to make sure the album gets done. I can head back to Boston in the morning and you can get your stuff taken care of.”

 “Boston? Why the hell are you going home? You said you’d stay out here for a couple of weeks.”

“I know AJ, I just don’t want to be in the way. The recording might take longer than you think.”

AJ shook his head adamantly. “No, they have three days of my time and then I don’t give a damn if the album gets done or not. I plan on spending every minute after that with you and they can shove the stupid album if they don’t like it.”

 Kat smiled. “Ok, ok. You win. I just don’t want to be a distraction for you.”

 AJ pulled her over to him and wrapped his arms around her. “You are the best kind of distraction Brady.”

 “Thanks McLean.” she said and kissed him on the cheek.

 He looked into her eyes and started to lean in closer to her lips when the phone rang again. Kat blushed and pulled back a little.

 “Son of a bitch!” he said opening the phone. “What do you want now?”

 His face turned pink.

 “Sorry Ma, I didn’t mean to yell at you.” He hopped off the stool, told Kat he would be back in a minute and stepped out onto the deck.

 “I take it you heard about the Malibu trip.”

 “Unfortunately, yes. I can’t believe that we have to go back out there.”

 “Is Kat going with you?”

 “I don’t know. I didn’t really think about it. Where else would she go?”

“How about with me? The other girls called me and said that they were thinking about going to the spa while you guys were away. Leigh, Leighanne and Kristen’s parents all said they would babysit the kids so we could have some girl time. Do you think Kat would mind?”

 “Let me ask her. She doesn’t really know any of you very well.”

 Denise laughed. “Well then this is the perfect time to get to know us better. The other girls really liked her and this could speed up the time till you get back for her.”

“Ok. I’ll talk to her and call you back in a little while. Love you Ma.”

 “Love you too Alex.”

 AJ hung up and went back into the kitchen. Kat was sitting on one of the stools waiting for him.

 “You yelled at your mom. Shame, shame.” She said crossing her index fingers and rubbing them together.

 AJ grinned and grabbed her hands. “Try that again you little twit.”

 They both started laughing. AJ really wanted to kiss her but the moment seemed to have slipped away.

 “What did your mom want?”

 “She actually wanted to talk to you.”

 “Me?”

 “Yeah. I guess Leigh called her and said we were going away. My mom and the girls decided to go to the spa for a few days and wanted to know if you would consider coming.”

 “By myself? I barely know them.”

 AJ laughed. “That’s kind of the point. They want to get to know you better. And don’t worry, I’ll pay for it.”

 “Then I won’t go.”

 AJ looked at her confused.

 “You paid for my plane ticket out here and you offered up your house to me AJ.  You can’t keep paying for me!”

 “Well, I just paid for breakfast.” he teased her.

 “You’re a jerk. You know what I meant. I don’t want you spending any more money of me. Got it?”

 “I’m not spending that much Kat. You always let me stay with you when I come out to Boston. And you cook for me and buy all the stuff you know I like. Why can’t you let me treat you to stuff?”

 “Because you don’t need to. You’re not an ATM AJ. I can pay for this myself. I will not go if you insist on paying for me.”

 He was shocked to hear her say that to him. All the women in his life, with the exception of his mother and the guys’ wives, were more than happy to have him foot the bill for whatever they wanted. He usually was the one that felt like an ATM. He hated confrontation and just wanted to make them happy so he paid for everything.

 “I mean it AJ. If you try to pay for this, I’ll refuse to go.”

 AJ held up both hands in front of him. “Fine, have it your way. Should I tell my mother you’re going to go?”

 Kat smiled. “No, I will so I can make sure that it shows up on my credit card and not yours!”

 -------------------------- 

Kat made dinner while AJ finished up his packing for the next day. They were both leaving early in the morning and they wanted to enjoy the last few hours together.

“Dinner’s ready!” Kat yelled upstairs.

 “Ok, I’ll be right down!”

 AJ zipped his bag and made his way down to the kitchen. Something smelled really good and his stomach growled.

 “What ya making?” he asked.

 “Homemade calzones.” She pulled them out of the oven and asked him to set the table. 

 “I’m really going to miss you for the next three days.” AJ said with a sad smile.

 “Well, you’re going to have to get used to it because I’ll be leaving in a week and a half.”

 “Don’t remind me.” he mumbled under his breath. “Can we just enjoy dinner and not talk about you leaving?”

 “Sorry.” Kat whispered.

 AJ sighed. “It’s not your fault. I just miss you when you’re not around. I’m so comfortable with you and I feel like I can be myself. I don’t feel that way with anyone else.”

 Kat was surprised by his admission and didn’t know what to say.

 “Let’s just forget I said anything and change the subject. Are you looking forward to going away with the girls?”

 “Ok. I am looking forward to it. This way I can get to know your mom and the guys’ wives. This way, if you decide to keep me around, I’ll feel more comfortable.” Kat said teasing him.

 “Don’t even joke like that Kat. There is no reason in the world that would ever make me not want to keep you around.”

 Kat felt bad for teasing him. “I’m sorry AJ.”

 “Forget it.” He stood up and walked away from the table. “I’m not hungry anymore.”

 Kat was speechless. She had no idea about what she had done to make him so mad and she hated that they were going to spend the night not talking. They had very rarely fought in the months they’d known each other. Kat cleaned up the kitchen and went upstairs to bed. Stopping at AJ’s door, she knocked and waited for him to answer.

 When he didn’t say anything, she sighed. “I’m really sorry that I teased you AJ. Please open the door.”

 She waited for a few minutes and then decided to go to bed. “Goodnight AJ. See you in the morning, hopefully.”

 AJ lay in his bed and listened for Kat to walk away. He hated being this way with her but he was dreading her leaving and he didn’t know what he was going to do when she went home.

 --------------------

Kat woke up the next morning to a note lying on her pillow.

 I’m sorry for being an ass Kat. I didn’t want to wake you up because you looked so peaceful. I promise that in three days we will do whatever you want and I’ll make it up to you. Be safe. Love, J

 Kat smiled at the note. She didn’t like that he had left without waking her up but she was looking forward to seeing him in three days.

 She finished packing her bag and went downstairs to wait for Denise and the girls. They showed up about five minutes later and they started the long drive to the spa.

Chapter 15 by Kyrie

“Who is this bitch?” Michelle yelled at her friend Claudia. She shoved a picture across the table of AJ hugging some chick at the airport.

 “I have no idea.” Claudia said. “I haven’t seen her around here.”

 “It gets worse too! I turned on the celebrity gossip thing this morning and I saw a picture of her leaving his house. I am not going to tolerate this!”

 “I thought you broke up with him?”

“We are NOT broken up! I am his girlfriend and we are just on a break. I don’t know who this fucking ugly bitch thinks she is but she is not going to sleep in my bed with my man!”

 “What are you going to do about it?”

 “Wait and see. I’ll get rid of her. Trust me!”

----------------------- 

The guys worked tirelessly to finish the album and were able to do it in a day and a half.  They decided to head home and surprise the girls when they got home the next day.

 AJ drove home after making plans to play golf with Nick the next day. He was looking forward to getting some sleep and planning a surprise for Kat when she got back. Knowing he messed up before he left, he really wanted to make it up to her.

 He took a nap when he got home and when he woke up, he decided to order take out for dinner. When the doorbell rang, he was shocked to find Michelle on the other side of the door instead of his food.

 “What are you doing here?” he asked sharply.

 “I came to visit my man.” Michelle said pushing past him. “Aren’t you excited to see me?”

 “I am not your man, no I am not excited to see you and I really want you to leave. Now!”

 “C’mon baby. Let’s just cuddle and watch a movie.” Michelle said trying to kiss him.

 “Get lost Michelle. I’m done with you. Why don’t you understand that?”

 Michelle put on a pouty face and flounced down to the kitchen. “Let’s at least have a drink.”

 AJ followed her down the hallway trying to get her to stop.  “I don’t drink anymore Michelle. You know that.”

 “Well, I do. You can just have a ginger ale or something.” She grabbed two glasses out of the cabinet, pouring wine into one and soda into the other.

 “Here baby.” She handed him the glass and sat down at the counter. “Let’s just talk ok?”

 “I don’t want to talk Michelle. I want you to leave me alone.” he said drinking some of the soda.

 “Is it because of that woman who’s staying with you?”

 “What do you know about her?” he snapped.

 “I know she’s not nearly as cute as I am and I know she’s not your type sweetie.”

 AJ was getting really irritated now. “Get out Michelle. We’re done and over and…”

 “What’s the matter honey? Not feeling well.” Michelle said with a smile.

 AJ stumbled over to the couch and collapsed. Michelle pushed him down so he was lying on his back.

“Just rest baby. I’ll take care of you.”

 The last thing he remembered before passing out was her straddling him and her face hovering off his.

Chapter 16 by Kyrie

AJ woke up the next morning to find Nick shaking him.

 “Dude, wake up. Get up now. What they hell were you thinking?”

 AJ’s head was pounding and he had no idea what Nick was talking about. His throat felt like it was on fire so he had trouble answering him.

 “What do you mean?” he asked.

 “I thought this whole shit was over man!”

 “What shit?” AJ said trying to sit up.

 “Michelle.”

 “What about her?”

 “Think dude. Think hard.”

 AJ was wracking his brain, trying to figure out what Nick was talking about.

 “She was leaving as I was pulling in.”

 AJ shook his head. “What are you talking about? She wasn’t……………..” All of a sudden, reality broke through AJ’s brain. He remembered Michelle coming over and then he remembered not feeling well.

 “Please tell me you didn’t sleep with her.”

 AJ felt like he wanted to throw up at the thought of it.

 “Nick, I swear, I don’t remember anything.”

 “You had better figure something out by the time the girls get back.”

 As if it happened on command, Kat walked into the house followed by Denise.

 “What are you guys doing here?” Kat asked. “You weren’t supposed to be home……”

 She stopped talking as soon as she saw AJ and Nick’s faces. AJ was half sitting and half lying on the couch. He looked like he had seen a ghost.

 “AJ?”

 “I think I’m gonna be sick!” AJ jumped off the couch and ran into the bathroom.

 Kat took off down the hall after AJ and Denise walked over to where Nick was sitting.

 “What happened Nick? And don’t leave anything out!”

 

Chapter 17 by Kyrie

Kat knocked on the bathroom door.

“AJ? Are you ok? Please let me in.”

 “Go away Kat.”

That was the last straw. She pushed open the door and found AJ sitting on the floor with his head against the wall.

 “I told you not to come in Kat.”

 “I don’t care what you told me AJ. I’m done with you pushing me away whenever you don’t want to talk.”

 She sat down on the floor next to him and realized that there were tears running down his cheeks.

 “Please tell me what’s wrong AJ. I care about you and I want to help. Please AJ?”

 Kat was surprised when he put his head on her shoulder and wrapped his arms around her.

 “I’m so sorry Kat.”

 He started crying and she had no idea what was going on.

 “It’s going to be ok AJ. Whatever it is, I promise I’ll be here for you.”

 She held onto him tightly while he told her everything he could remember. When he was finished, he waited for her to get up and leave. She didn’t move and he looked up at her with sad eyes.

 “Why aren’t you leaving?”

 She looked down at him. “Why would I leave AJ?”

 “Because I fucked up.”

 “But you didn’t fuck up AJ. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

 “I slept with her.”

“Did you really? Do you even know whether you did or didn’t?”

 “No but Nick said he saw her leave.”

 “Who cares. Honestly AJ, it doesn’t matter whether you did or you didn’t. You don’t have to explain yourself to me.”

 “But..”

 “No buts AJ. You don’t have to tell me anything. It’s not like we’re dating and you cheated on me.”

 AJ sat there thinking that’s exactly what it felt like. He sat up straight and put his head in his hands.

 “AJ please don’t keep pushing me away.”

 He looked at her. “Can you give me five minutes?”

 She looked at him sideways.

 “I promise. Five minutes. If I’m not back out by then, you can come drag me out.”

 Kat smiled. “I’m holding you to that McLean!” She stood up and walked over to the door. “Five minutes and I’m timing you!”

 AJ smiled for the first time that morning. “Five minutes.”

 -----------------------------------------

Kat rejoined Nick and Denise in the living room explaining that AJ promised he would be out in five minutes.

 “What happened Kat?” Denise asked hoping that her son had told her.

 “I’m not completely sure. He said she came barging over last night, they had an argument and then he got sick and passed out. I think she put something in his drink.”

 Denise was stunned. “Would you two mind if I went and checked on Alex?”

 Nick and Kat nodded and watched Denise walk down the hallway.

 “She’s a bitch!” Nick and Kat said in unison and both started laughing.

 “I really hate her.” Nick said.

 “Hate her? I’d like to find her skinny ass and shove her back under whatever rock she crawled out from.”

Nick chuckled. “Remind me not to make you mad.”

 Kat looked at him. “I don’t normally get this mad, but I’m tired of watching her jerk AJ around. I wish he’d find someone that deserves him and that wouldn’t go out of her way to hurt him.”

 “Maybe he already has.” Nick asked.

 “He has another girlfriend?” Kat asked stunned. “He didn’t tell me about her.”

 Nick laughed so hard he fell off the arm of the sofa.

 Kat was about to say something when AJ and Denise rounded the corner and noticed Nick on the floor.

 “Really dude?” AJ asked. “I’m having a tough time and you’re rolling around on the floor laughing.”

 He went over and kicked him gently with his foot.

 “Sorry J, but you have a comedian here.” he said pointing at Kat.

 Kat shrugged her shoulders when AJ looked at her. “I don’t know. He said you had found a girl that you liked and I said that you didn’t mention her to me.”

 Denise and AJ started to laugh.

 “What!? I don’t get what’s so funny.” Kat looked back and forth between the three of them.

 “Why don’t we leave these two alone Nick? You can walk me out to my car.”

 Denise and Nick said their goodbyes and left.

 AJ sat down next to Kat on the sofa.

“I really don’t get it AJ. What’s so damn funny?”

 He pulled her over to him and wrapped his arms around her. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing is funny about it.”

 Kat shook her head and smiled. “I don’t get you guys.”

 “You get me Kat. That’s why I love you.”

 Kat froze on the couch. She was too stunned to say anything. They sat there for a few minutes in silence before Kat suddenly leapt up and told AJ she would be back. She made a beeline for the bathroom and closed the door.

 What the hell was going on here?

Chapter 18 by Kyrie

I am so fucking stupid AJ thought to himself. That was one of the dumbest things he’d ever done. He really did love Kat and he had wanted to tell her for a while. This wasn’t exactly the way he had planned on doing it though.

 AJ went down the hall to the bathroom and knocked on the door.

“Kat? Can I come in?”

 “Um, I’ll be out in two minutes k.”

AJ thumped his head against the door. “Ok, I’ll be outside on the deck.”

 “K.”

 She waited a few minutes until she was sure AJ had left and poked her head out the door.  He wasn’t in the hallway so she crept down to the kitchen and she saw him on the back deck smoking a cigarette. She bolted up the stairs to the guest room and dug out her cell.

 Brenda answered on the second ring.

 “You have to help me!” Kat squeaked out.

 “Are you ok?” Brenda asked.

 “No, he said he loved me.” Kat whispered.

 “Who said he loved you?”

 Kat smacked herself in the forehead. “Brad Pitt! Who do you think said he loved me?”

 “AJ said he loved you?”

 “That’s what I just said!”

 “Tell me exactly what happened.”

 Kat explained the situation to Brenda, pausing a few times when Brenda let loose some colorful adjectives for Michelle. She finally got to the part about him saying he loved her and it came tumbling out.

 “Slow down. Did he say he loves you or he’s in love with you?”

 Kat thought for a minute. “He only said he loves me.”

 Brenda started to laugh.

 “What’s so funny? I don’t know what to do. What do I say?”

 “Seriously Kat? I tell you I love you too. Do you get all freaked out when I say it?”

 “No! But you’re not a guy and definitely not a guy I have feelings for.”

 Brenda sighed. “Be careful Kat. You’re talking about your feelings for him but all he said was that he loves you. He probably meant it as a friend. You helped him through a tough time and you didn’t cut out.”

 “Why would I?” Kat asked.

 “You wouldn’t and that’s what makes you a great friend.  That’s also why I’m telling you, as a friend, that it was probably just a term of endearment. I don’t think he was professing his love for you. At least I’m hoping he wasn’t, considering that was a pretty shitty way of doing it!”

 Kat smiled. “Thanks Brenda. You always know what to say.” She wandered over to the window and saw AJ get up and head back into the house.

 “Shit! He’s coming back in. Gotta go. Love you!”

 Kat clicked the phone shut before Brenda got to say goodbye. Brenda laughed but she was concerned about the advice she had given her. Maybe AJ meant more than she thought he did.

 

Chapter 19 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

**Spoiler Alert: I give away the ending of the movie "One Day" in the second half of the chapter.

Kat ran down the stairs hoping to get back into the bathroom before he caught her. She went careening through the hallway and started to run into the bathroom when she noticed AJ standing, with his arms folded, right inside the doorway.

 “The bathroom huh?” he asked and raised his eyebrow. “I came back because I wanted to make sure you didn’t fall in and the bathroom’s empty.”

 Kat turned about ten shades of red. “Ummm, sorry, I was leaving the bathroom when I heard my phone ring. I had to get it.”

 AJ laughed. “Then why do you look like you’re returning to the scene of the crime.”

 Kat’s brain froze. “Um, I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the sink running?”

 This just made AJ laugh harder. “You are the worst liar I’ve ever met!”

 “I’m not lying! Really!”

 “Ok Honest Abe.” AJ turned her around and pushed her out of the bathroom. “Let’s go watch a movie or something before you decide to bolt again.”

 “Whatever McLean!” she said elbowing him in the stomach.

 AJ felt himself relax a little. Maybe he hadn’t scared her off. He really wanted to tell her how he felt but he didn’t know if he could take her running away from him. This was something he was really going to have to think about.

 --------------------- 

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into watching that.” AJ groaned and reached for the remote.

 “What’s wrong with One Day?”

 “Seriously Kat? I just had to watch two people spend twenty years pretending like they didn’t love each other and then, when they finally get their shit together and start to build a life together, she dies! What the hell kind of movie is that?”

 “A good one!”

 “You’re kidding me right? She died!”

 “I know but at least they knew they loved each other.”

 “So that’s the good thing?”

 “Maybe.”

 AJ just shook his head. “I don’t get women.”

 Kat flicked him on the shoulder. “We don’t get you guys either. In fact, the two people in that movie might have gotten together sooner and maybe had a great relationship if the guy smartened up and told her how he really felt.”

 AJ’s head jerked up and he stared at her.

 “What?” Kat looked at him confused. “I’m just saying that guys take their sweet time telling women how they feel and end up wasting time they could have had together.”

 AJ’s head swam. Was she just making an observation or was she trying to get him to tell her how he felt?

“AJ? AJ? Earth to AJ?” Kat yelled waving her hands in front of his face. “Hello? Anyone in there?”

“What? I’m here” he said finally coming back into reality. “You can stop waving your arms now.”

 “Just checking. It looked like you went into the Twilight Zone or something.”

 He shook his head. “No, I’m fine. I think I’m just tired. I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

 Kat laughed. “You probably didn’t but I’m back tonight. I promise to fight off any crazy chicks who try to slip stuff in your drink and have their way with you!”

 AJ burst out laughing and pulled her close to him. “I appreciate that. Knowing you have my back will make it much easier to sleep!”

 Kat smiled at him. “That’s why you keep me around.”

 She stood up and pulled him off the couch. They walked upstairs and said goodnight in front of Kat’s room.

 “Night AJ. Sweet dreams and try to get some rest ok?”

 “I will you too.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Night Kat.”

 She turned and went into her room and he headed off to his. He hoped he would be able to sleep but something nagged at him and he doubted sleep would actually come.

Chapter 20 by Kyrie

Kat spent the next few hours tossing and turning, hoping for some sleep. After awhile, she gave up and decided to try sitting out back. She tiptoed out of her room so she wouldn't wake AJ but was surprised to see his door open and bed empty. She headed downstairs and found him sitting on the deck smoking a cigarette. Apparently he hadn’t been able to sleep.

 "You couldn't sleep either?"

 AJ jumped. "Jesus! Are you trying to kill me?"

Kat laughed. "No, I was trying to say hello but scaring you is an added bonus!"

 "Real funny Kat!" He said and laughed. "I see you’re awake too. Bad dreams?"

 "No. I had to be on guard in case some crazy woman snuck into the house and tried to sneak into your room."

 "Oh how sweet. You always have my best interests in heart."

 "Always McLean." She paused for a minute. "I'll always have your best interests in mind."

 AJ looked at her surprised. He felt the same way but he was afraid to tell her thinking that he might scare her off. Changing the subject, he told her that he wanted to spend the day with her and do something fun.

 "I guess we should probably try and get some sleep then."

 "Why don't you head back in? I'm going to try and make myself a little sleepier."

 Kat thought for a minute and decided what the hell. "Do you want to come sleep with me?"

 AJ's head jerked up. "Kat Brady, did you just ask me if I wanted to sleep with you? Don't you think that's being a little forward?"

 Kat turned beet red. “That’s not what I meant AJ and you know it!” she protested.

 “I’m shocked by your behavior Brady! That is such an unladylike thing to say.”

Now she was just mortified. This was not the way she wanted the conversation to go.

 “You can be such a jerk sometimes you know that.” She jumped off the chair and started off towards the house. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

 AJ sat there stunned. He had no idea where this conversation had turned from teasing to being insulting. Nothing he said was supposed to be mean, he was just kidding.

 Deciding that the situation needed to be fixed immediately, he ran up the stairs and knocked on her door.

 “I’m sorry Kat, I really am. I know what you meant and I was just teasing you.”

 No answer.

 “Kat, please, I really am sorry.”

 Still no answer. He leaned forward to press his head to the door when it suddenly opened and he lost his balance and fell onto the floor. Kat stood above him smiling.

 “You totally deserved that.”

 “I know.” he said laughing. He stuck his hand out. “Truce?”

 “Truce.” she said reaching out her hand. She hugged him and walked back to the bed. “See you in the morning.”

 “Hey!” AJ said loudly causing Kat to turn around. “Does that offer still stand?”

 “What offer?”

 “The offer to sleep with you.”

 Kat’s jaw dropped. It took her a few second to recover.

 “I guess so.” She paused. “If you want to.”

 AJ grinned and jumped onto the bed. “This is going to be fun!”

 Kat groaned. “We actually need to sleep McLean.”

“I know.” AJ said and crawled under the covers.

 Kat climbed in next to him and rolled onto her side so she could face him. “Night AJ.”

 He looked at her. “Seriously Kat? I don’t bite. At least not too hard.” He winked and stretched out his arm.

 Kat shook her head but crawled over closer to him. She put her head on his chest and he wrapped his arms around her.

 “See. That’s not so bad.”

 Actually, this is great Kat thought to herself.

 “Sleep tight AJ.”

 “You too Kat.” he said kissing her on the head. “See you in the morning.”

 Both of them fell asleep a few moments later.

 

Chapter 21 by Kyrie

AJ woke up and it took him a few seconds to realize that he wasn’t in his own room. He looked down and saw that Kat was still asleep on his chest and he smiled. This moment was perfect and he didn’t want it to end. He just lay there listening to her breathing and started to doze back off.

 Kat woke up a few minutes later and was startled to find someone in bed with her. Then she realized that AJ had fallen asleep with her last night and he still had his arms wrapped around her. She thought it was the best feeling ever. Without thinking, she curled up tighter next to him. She moved her head on his chest so she could hear his heartbeat.

 AJ woke up and smiled. He wrapped his arms around her tighter and whispered good morning into her hair.

“Morning AJ. How’d you sleep?”

 “Great. I’m going to have to start sleeping with you every night.”

 Kat loved hearing him say that but it made her sad knowing that she was leaving soon. She didn’t know what to say.

 “Kat?”

 “Huh?”

 “What’s the matter?”

 “Nothing.”

 “Liar. I can feel you frown.”

 Kat sighed. “Just thinking about how much I love this and how much I’m going to miss it when I got home.”

 The thought of that made AJ discouraged. He hated the fact that she would be heading home soon and that he wouldn’t be able to see her every day.

 “You know what? I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” He sat up in bed. “I’ll give you ten minutes to get dressed and then we’re leaving.”

 “Where are we going?” she asked watching him head for the door.

 AJ turned around and smiled. “It’s a surprise.”

 Kat groaned and lay back on the bed. “I thought I told you I hated surprises.”

 “I know you did, but I don’t seem to listen real well. You’re down to nine minutes now so hurry up.”

 -------------------------------- 

AJ and Kat spent the day checking out some local spots like Malibu Pier and some of the shopping areas where Kat watched AJ pick out item after item.

 “Dear God AJ! I have never seen a man shop like that ever.” she said laughing and pointing at all his bags.

 AJ shrugged his shoulders. “What can I say? I like to shop.” He waited for a moment. “Anything interest you?”

 Kat grinned at him. “No and even if it did I wouldn’t tell you.”

 “Why?”

 “Because I know you’d try to buy it for me and we’ve already had that discussion.”

 “Seriously Kat? Can’t you let me buy you one thing?”

 “No.”

 “Nothing?”

 “Ok one thing.”

 “Anything.” he said with a smile.

 “Dinner.”

 “Dinner? Nothing else?”

 “Nope.” Kat linked her arm with his. “Let’s go, I’m starving.”

 ----------------------------

Kat and AJ had dinner down by the water and decided to take a walk on the beach to watch the sun set.

 “This is beautiful AJ. I’m glad you decided to come here.”

 He smiled. “That’s not the only thing that beautiful.”

 Kat hit him on the arm and kept walking. “Quit being cute.”

 AJ was getting frustrated with her. She always thought he was kidding when he complimented her.

 He tugged on her arm to slow her down. “Can we sit for a couple of minutes?”

 Kat looked surprised. “Are you tired?”

 “No I just want to sit for a couple of minutes.” He dragged her over to one of the stone walls and helped her up onto it. Then he jumped up, settled in and turned to face her.

 “I think we need to talk.” He had planned on doing this when they got back to the house but he felt like it needed to be said now.

 “Kat, you know you’re my friend right?”

 “Of course I do AJ.” she smiled and squeezed his hand. “Did you really need to tell me that?”

 AJ shook his head. “I mean you’re my best friend.”

 Kat just sat there.

 “You really are my best friend Kat. You are the one person in my life who I can turn to, the one who makes my life better. You make me feel like it’s ok to be me, just the way I am. You’re accepting of all my faults and you don’t hold all the shit I’ve done in the past against me. Even when I screw up now, you’re always on my side.”

 Kat’s eyes filled with tears. She had no idea he felt this way.

 “I have never felt as safe with anyone as I do with you. I know that no matter what I do, I can count on you to be there and to support me. You have no idea how much that means to me.”

 “AJ you don’t have to tell me all this.”

 “Yes I do Kat. That movie we watched last night really drove the point home to me. I have to tell you how I feel now before I lose the chance.”

 “Ok. Do you feel better now?”

 “Not yet.”

 AJ leaned in so he was inches from her face. “I love you Kat.”

 “I love you too AJ.”

 He shook his head. “No, Kat, I mean I really love you.” He paused for a minute. “I’m in love with you Kat.”

Chapter 22 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Thank you to Sapphire and JordansLady for all the reviews!

Kat sat there and just stared at AJ. She was completely dumbfounded. There was no way he could be in love with her; she was so far away from his type that it was impossible.

 “AJ, I ….”

 AJ put his hand over Kat’s mouth. “Stop.” he said. “Why do you do this every time I say something to you that in any way is about my feelings for you? Don’t you believe me?”

 Kat’s eyes filled with tears. “I want to believe you AJ, I really do. It’s hard though knowing that I am not like any of the girlfriends you’ve had.  I don’t see how I can compare to them.”

 AJ pulled her into his arms. “They are the ones who can’t compete with you Kat. I love you and I want to be with you. You are my type, I just took a really long time figuring that out.”

 Kat laughed softly.  “You do take your sweet time doing things.”

 AJ pulled back from her so he would see her eyes.  “I love you Kat.” He sat there hoping that she would say it back.

 Kat stared at him for a minute. She knew that if she didn’t take a risk now, she would regret it.

 “I love you too AJ.”

 His face broke into a wide grin and his eyes lit up. “Really?”

 “Really AJ. I love you.” Kat said to him with a smile.

AJ surprised her by pulling her off the wall and pushing her back against it.  He leaned in and kissed her.

He meant for it to be a soft one but once he felt the electricity, he couldn’t pull himself away from her. Wrapping his arms around her tightly, he picked her up never removing his lips from hers. Kat put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

 AJ finally stopped kissing her and moved his lips to her ear.

 “I think it’s time to go home now.” He smiled at her. “Don’t plan on getting too much sleep tonight. We have a lot of time to make up for!”

 Kat smiled back. “No need to worry about me. The last thing on my mind is sleep!”

 ------------------------------- 

They spent the next few hours in bed making up for all the lost time. Neither one of them had been this happy in a long time.  AJ had found someone that he could truly be himself with and Kat had found someone she knew loved her just the way she was.

 Kat had her head resting on AJ’s chest and he had his arms wrapped around her. They decided, finally, that they should try and get some sleep. AJ wanted to invite everyone over later that day and tell them the great news over dinner.

 “Kat?” AJ asked quietly.

 “Hmmm?” she asked sleepily.

 “I love you.”

 Kat grinned. “You’ve told me that a billion times since you told me a few hours ago.”

 “I know.” he said laughing. “I just want you to get used to it because I plan on saying every day, at least 10 times a day.”

 “I think you’re going to get tired of saying it before I get tired of hearing it.” She paused for a minute. “AJ?”

 “Yeah?”

 “Thank you.”

 AJ pushed her chin up so that he could see her face. “Thank you for what?”

 “For loving me.”

 “Why are you thanking me for loving you?”

 “Because….” she trailed off. Kat didn’t know exactly how to put what she wanted to say. “Thank you because I have never felt this way with anyone.  I’ve never felt safe enough with anyone to really let them see me and all my faults. I’ve hidden part of myself away for years and I feel like I’ve been able to open up and share everything with you. You’ve seen me on my good days and on my bad ones and you’re still here.”

 AJ was speechless. Normally he was the one thinking those things. It was crazy to hear Kat say all of that and it caused him to tear up a little.

 “I’m the one who should be thanking you. Your faults are far less than mine and I was a complete asshole to you when I met you. I’m grateful you could look past my being a dumbass and let me in your life even as a friend.” He waited for a minute. “Honestly Kat, I wasn’t sure you were going to say you loved me.”

 Kat looked confused. “Why wouldn’t I?”

 “All the shit I’ve done in the past and all the stupid things I did when we met add up to someone who’s not exactly the easiest person to love or to deal with. I know you cared about me as a friend but I didn’t know if you could put that aside and be willing to love me. You know you’re going to have to deal with a lot of stuff and most women wouldn’t be able to do that.”

 Kat smiled. “Well then it’s a good thing I love you and that I’m not most women!”

 AJ laughed. “Good to know.” He wrapped his arms around her tighter and kissed her softly. “I love you Kat.”

 “I love you too AJ.”

 

Chapter 23 by Kyrie

Kat was in the kitchen making pasta salad to go with all the other food for the cookout when she heard the doorbell ring. She knew it had to be Denise. They had asked her to come over earlier so they could sit down and talk before everyone else got there.

 Wiping her hands on a towel, she let Denise in and took her out to the back deck where AJ was setting up the tables and chairs.

 “Hi Ma.” AJ said kissing his mother on the cheek. “Thanks for coming over.”

 “How can I pass up an opportunity to see my son?”

 AJ grinned. “I was hoping we could talk to you before all the guys get here.”

 Denise sat down across from Kat and she looked from her son to her. Kat looked nervous and was fidgeting with her hands.

 “What’s going on?” Denise asked looking back at her son.

 AJ sat down at the table and reached for Kat’s hand.  She seemed grateful for the contact.

 AJ took a deep breath. “Kat and I are together now. We both love each other and we wanted you to be the first one to know.”

 Kat didn’t tell either one of them that she had already told Brenda. She needed her best friend’s support so she had called her while AJ was out picking up propane for the grill.

 Denise sat there stunned. She had to admit that Kat seemed like a nice girl and her son appeared to be happier around her but she felt like this was moving too fast.

 “I’m not really sure what to say.”

 Kat felt her heart sink into her stomach. She really wanted Denise to like her and to be happy for them. It didn’t seem as though that was going to happen.

 AJ saw Kat’s face. He leaned over and whispered in her ear. She got up, excused herself and went into the house. Grabbing her cell phone, she went upstairs to call Brenda.

 “What was all that about Ma?” he asked with a hurt look on his face. “You seemed to get along really well at the spa and you acted comfortable around her when you got back.”

 “Alex, I want to be happy for you both but I really think you’re going into this thing way too fast. You’ve known each other for about four months now and you’re already a couple and talking about love? Do you truly believe that this is the real thing?”

 “Why don’t you ever trust my judgment?” he asked getting defensive.

 Denise sighed. “I love you Alex but your judgment has gotten you into a lot of trouble in the past. And honestly, your taste in women hasn’t always been the best. Just look at Michelle.”

AJ knew his mother was right in what she said but he hated that she was always using that as an excuse not to see things from his perspective.

 “I know I fucked up in the past Ma but I’m really trying here. Kat is nothing like Michelle and I already told you how important she is to me. She likes you a lot and had fun with you and the girls at the spa.”

 “I didn’t say she wasn’t a nice girl or that I didn’t like her Alex. I’m just worried that she might turn out like Michelle or some of your past girlfriends.”

 “She isn’t like any girl I have ever dated. She doesn’t want anything from me. There is nothing about her that makes me feel like she’s going to screw me over like Michelle.” AJ paused. “She thanked me for loving her Ma.”

 Denise was shocked. In all of his past relationships, he had spent the better part of the time apologizing for his past and avoiding confrontation by doing whatever he could to make the girl happy. She heard him thank Michelle for loving him countless times but she’d never heard anyone thank him for anything.

 “We started out as friends not a hookup and we got to know each other. She didn’t have to talk to me at all after the way I treated her when we first met but she looked past all that. She became my friend, a real one, someone I could depend on. Kat’s always on my side even when I fuck up and she probably wants to give me a kick in the ass.”

 Denise had to laugh. She could picture Kat doing that.

 “You’re important to me but she is too. I want the two women in my life to get along and I really want you to give her a chance. Please get to know her more. It’s important to me. Please Ma.”

 Denise saw the sincerity in her son’s eyes. She told him she would give her the benefit of the doubt and that she was happy for him. The only thing she didn’t say to him was that she hoped it wasn’t the wrong thing to do.

Chapter 24 by Kyrie

“She hates me.” Kat cried into the phone. She had called Brenda as soon as she got upstairs.

“She can’t hate you Kat. She has to get to know you.”

 “I thought things were going great. We got along at the spa and it seemed like she was warming up to me. I don’t know what to do. It feels like she doesn’t think I’m good enough for AJ.”

 “That’s bullshit! If she thinks that then forget her. She knows nothing about you. Anyone who knows you knows what a terrific person you are and that AJ is lucky to have you in his life.”

 Kat smiled. Brenda was great at giving her pep talks and supporting her no matter what the issue was.

 “What if I try and try and just can’t get her to like me?”

 Brenda sighed. “Honestly Kat, I think you need to talk to her again. Lay everything out for her and explain your side of the story.”

 “I tried that when I first came out here. I thought that she understood how I felt then.”

 “Do it again. If she still doesn’t get it then try talking to AJ and see what he has to say. Maybe he can figure something out.” She paused for a minute. “Remember the talk we had before you went out there?”

 “The one where you told me I was a liar for saying I didn’t have any feelings for AJ?”

 “That’d be the one.”

 “I remember it. Why are you asking?”

 “I told you to be careful when you were out there. You said this wasn’t going to go anywhere and now you guys are together and I’ve heard the L word come out of your mouth several times.  Are you really sure you want to do this?”

 “Seriously Brenda! I thought you were ok with this.”

 “I am but this whole situation is going to be tough. His mom having issues with you is going to be a small problem for you. You’re going to have to deal with the fans, angry ones who aren’t going to like you being that close to AJ. You’re also going to have to face the press and all the photographers that the boys have following them 24/7. I just want to make sure that you are completely ready for this.”

 Kat thought for a few minute before she said anything else. “I know Brenda. I can do this. I love AJ and I know that to make this work, I’m going to have to deal with a whole list of stuff. I can do this. I want to do this.”

 “Ok sweetie. I’m here for you no matter what and I’ll do whatever I can to support you, even if it means having it out with his mom for you!”

 Kat laughed. “I love you Brenda.”

 “Love you too Kat. Go have the talk and call me later.”

Kat hung up the phone and gave herself a pep talk before she headed downstairs to see Denise.

 

Chapter 25 by Kyrie

Everyone had started to arrive by the time Kat made it downstairs. She had been hoping to talk to Denise before the guys got there but it seemed like that would have to wait. 

 “Hey Kat!” Nick yelled coming through the front door. “How are you?” He picked Kat up and swung her around.

 “Hands off Carter!” AJ said giving him a playful shove.  “My girl, not yours.”

 Nick’s face broke out in a grin. “Did you just say my girl?”

 AJ smiled. “Yes I did.”

 “YES!!!!” Nick yelled jumping up and down.

 “Shut up Nicky! We haven’t told everyone yet.”

 “Oops sorry.” Nick said quietly. “When are you going to tell them?”

 “Tell us what?” Howie asked coming in. Nick’s yelling had caused everyone to come inside.

 “Thanks Nick.” AJ said rolling his eyes.

 Kat stood there not knowing what to say with everyone standing around. She was shocked when Denise came over and put her arm around her shoulder. AJ saw his mother’s gesture and smiled at her.

 “I wanted to do this over dinner but thanks to knucklehead over here,” AJ pointed to Nick, “I guess I’ll do it now.” Before AJ could even get his thoughts together, everyone else started jumping in.

 “Please tell me that you two finally decided to stop dancing around being together and now you just are.” Kevin said.

 Both AJ and Kat’s mouths dropped open.

 “Oh please.” Kristen said. “You two didn’t really think you were fooling anybody did you?”

 Leigh laughed. “AJ, sweetheart, from the day you met Kat, you been Kat this and Kat that.”

 “You totally had a crush and you act like a twelve year old getting all excited anytime someone mentions her name.” Leighanne added.

 Brian kissed Kat on the cheek. “Thank you for forgiving him and putting up with all his crap. None of us would be able to deal with him if you two didn’t get together soon.”

 Neither Kat nor AJ had any clue what to say. They both thought that they had kept it totally on a friend level but apparently everyone else was aware of what took them months to figure out.

“Great!” Nick said. “Now that we’ve gotten this settled can we eat?”

 Howie whacked him on the back of the head. “Really Nick?”

 “Yes really Howard. This dumbass,” he said and pointed to AJ, “finally got his head on straight and told Kat how he felt. She obviously, although I have no idea why, feels the same way. All done. Signed, sealed and delivered. Let’s eat.”

 “Wow Nick, you’re such a romantic.” Leighanne said rolling her eyes.

 Nick stuck his tongue out at her. “Last one out gets to do the dishes!” He ran for the slider door.

 Everyone laughed and followed him except for Denise and Kat.

 “Can I talk to you for a minute?” Denise asked.

 Kat nodded yes and followed her into the living room. They sat down on the couch and Kat was nervous about what Denise was going to say.

 “I’m sorry Kat. I’ve been hard on you since you got here and I apologize for that. I just hope you understand where I’m coming from. I’m Alex’s mother and I will always want what’s best for him. He has made it clear to me that he cares for you deeply and he wants to make this work with you. I’m going to butt out and let you two figure this out. I hope I can get to know you more before you leave.”

 “I would like that.” She paused for a moment. “I promise you Denise that I won’t hurt him. I truly love him and I want what’s best for him too. I hope that I can make him happy and that maybe, in time, you’ll feel differently about us being together.”

 I hope so too, Denise thought. Instead of voicing her concern again, she suggested that they join everyone else outside.

Chapter 26 by Kyrie

The next few weeks flew by and it was the night before Kat was leaving to go back to Boston. She had already stayed longer than she had planned and would be starting the new school year in two weeks. They were lying in bed and neither one really knew what to say. It was one of the rare times that they were uncomfortable with each other.

 AJ finally broke the tension. "Are you sure you have to leave tomorrow?"

 Kat sighed. "You know I do. I have meetings for work that I need to go to and I need to get ready for the new year. I already stayed three weeks longer AJ."

"I know you did. I just don't want you to go. I'm so used to having you here in bed with me every night and in my life every day. It's going to be harder on me than you know to not have you with me."

 This was a topic of discussion every day for the last week. Kat hated leaving but she had responsibilities that she needed to deal with.

 "I'm always with you AJ, I just might not be here physically."

 "That's not the same Kat and you know it."

 "I know but it's the best I can do for now. I have to keep my job and I have a home that I need to go back to."

 AJ knew what he had todo. "What if this became your home?"

Kat looked at him completely confused.

 AJ pulled a key out of the bedside table and handed it to Kat. "What if you moved out here with me?"

 Kat had no idea what to say. She kept turning the key over and over in her hand.

 "Please Kat. Come out here and live with me. You know how much I love you and it's going to be hell for me to not be with you." He leaned over so his face was over hers. "I have never loved anyone as much as I love you Kat. I can be myself with you and that has been so hard for me in the past. I promise to take care of you and you can find a job out here. Please don't leave."

 Kat's eyes filled with tears. She loved him so much but everything was going so fast. "Can I sleep on it?"

 AJ rolled over and sighed. He hated that she was still considering leaving but at least she hadn't said no.

 "Will you tell me tomorrow?"

 "Yes AJ I will."

 He rolled back over to face her. "I love you Kat."

 "I love you too AJ."

 

Chapter 27 by Kyrie

Kat didn't sleep at all that night. She had so much to consider and she wanted to make the right decision. AJ and Marcus took her to the airport the next morning and AJ was completely silent. She had never seen such a look of hurt on his face and she knew she had to tell him. She pulled him aside so she could talk to him privately.

 "AJ, I know...."

 "You're still leaving aren't you?"

 Kat nodded.

 "I am leaving..."

 AJ's eyes filled with tears. He thought his heart was going to break. "I guess I'll see you when I fly out in a few weeks."

 "You don't listen very well you know."

 AJ looked up at her.

 "I am leaving but not for long. I made a decision last night. I'm going to give my notice and work for the first two terms which will be the end of January. It'll give them enough time to find someone else and give me enough time to sell my house. I......"

 AJ didn't let her finish her sentence. He pulled her into a hug, lifting her off of her feet and crushing his mouth to hers. He kissed her so passionately that it literally took her breath away. She felt like she had made the right decision.

 "I love you Kat Brady and I will make sure you don't regret coming out here." he said as though he was reading her thoughts.

 "You better keep that promise." Kat said with a smile.

 "I will Kat. I love you so much, I'll do whatever it takes to make you happy."

 Kat knew he would. They called her flight and she and AJ said their goodbyes knowing at least that it would be only for a few months. AJ planned on flying out to see her and she said she would spend Thanksgiving with him and the guys. Kat walked away to board the plane and she turned to wave at AJ. He came running over to her and kissed her.

 "I love you Kat and I'll see you soon."

 "I love you too AJ."

Chapter 28 by Kyrie

Brenda called Kat the next morning and suggested that they go to breakfast. She hadn't seen her since before she left for California and she missed her friend. Kat had agreed to meet her at their favorite restaurant.

 Brenda jumped up to hug her the minute she walked in.

 "I missed you so much. It hasn't been the same without you."

 "I missed you too Brenda." She didn't want to tell her friend about the move but she didn't like keeping secrets from her either. She waited until the waitress had taken their order before she told her the news.

 "You might have to get used to me not being around all the time."

 Brenda looked at her like she'd just lost her mind. "What do you mean all the time? Where would you...." Brenda's thought trailed off when she saw the look on Kat's face. "Tell me you didn't!" she said angrily.

 All Kat could do was nod her head.

 "What the hell are you thinking?"

 "I love him Brenda."

 "I don't care if you do or if you don't. This thing is moving way too fast and I can't believe you're even thinking about moving in with him, forget moving all the way across the country. Are you crazy?"

 Kat was hurt that Brenda felt this way. She thought her friend would be more supportive and understand why she was doing this.

 "I'm sorry that you feel that way but I love AJ and I want this."

 Brenda sighed. She wanted to be happy for her friend but she just felt like this was going to turn out badly.

 "I love you Kat; you're like my sister. I want you to be happy but I also am going to tell you when I'm concerned. I wouldn't be your friend if I didn't. I hope you understand that."

 "I do Brenda, I was just hoping for a little support from someone."

 Brenda was hurt that her friend felt like no one had her back.

 "I'm sorry Kat. I will do my best to help you and to be happy for you. It's just going to take some time."

 Kat smiled at her friend. "Thank you."

 Brenda smiled back. "You're welcome. Just don't expect me to pack all your crap. There aren't enough boxes on the planet!"

 ---------------------

AJ knew he was going to have to talk with his mother. She had gotten to know Kat better over the last few weeks and she seemed like she was coming around. He only hoped this wouldn't set everything back.

 "Hi Ma." AJ said to his mother when she arrived at the house. "Thanks for coming over."

 Denise smiled up at her son and hugged him. "I'm glad you invited me. How are you?" She wanted to make sure he was ok since Kat had left.

 "I'm good Ma. Really good." His face broke into a smile.

 This was definitely not what she had been planning to see. She knew he hated that Kat was leaving and he had told her on several occasions that he was going to have a hard time with it.

 "What brought on the change?"

 "Kat agreed to move out here with me."

 Denise's mouth dropped open. What in the world was he thinking?

 AJ could tell his mother was not thrilled about this decision.

 "When did all this happen?"

 "The day Kat left. I asked her the night before and she took the night to think about it. She agreed to move out at the end of January."

 Denise decided to just come out with it. "Look Alex. I told you I was going to get to know her better and to try and be supportive of your relationship with her but this is a mistake. You've known each other for what five months now? I hardly think it's a good idea for her to come out here and live with you. How do you even know it's going to last? What if she moves all the way out here and your relationship with her falls apart?"

 AJ was furious. "Why are you always second guessing me? You're my mother! You're supposed to be the one who supports me and loves me. Kat makes me happier than I have ever been. I have never loved anyone as much as I love her." AJ quieted down some. "I wish you would understand that. I can't make you like the situation Ma but it's going to happen whether you like it or not. I want your support but I don't need your permission."

 Denise was stunned by AJ's words. He had never defended any of his girlfriends this way nor had he ever told her that he loved any of them.

 "Kat is the best person I have ever met. She makes me better. I am not going to lose her because you don't like it. She means more to me than you will ever know and until you can support me, we have nothing left to say."

AJ walked away and went upstairs leaving a shocked Denise standing in the kitchen. She didn't like the situation but there was no way she wanted to lose her son over it. She would have to keep her opinions to herself and try to be supportive. She gave AJ a few minutes to calm down and then she went up after him to apologize and try to straighten this mess out.

 

Chapter 29 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Hope this chapter's ok!

AJ decided to fly out to Boston over Labor Day weekend since Kat would have four days off that they could spend together. He missed her more than he thought he would and had planned on taking her away.  She promised to meet his plane on Friday afternoon and she was there at the gate waiting just like she said.

 AJ ran over to her, sweeping her off her feet and kissing her deeply. Everyone in the airport recognized him and was staring but neither one cared.

 "I have missed you so badly." he whispered into her ear before kissing her again.

 Kat laughed. "I've missed you too. I can't wait to spend four days with you."

 "Good because I have a surprise for you."

 Kat groaned. "I vaguely remember explaining to you that I hate surprises."

 AJ laughed. "And I'm pretty sure I told you that it was too bad and I would continue to surprise you."

 "No one is coming with us are they?"

 "Hell no! This weekend is all about you and I. I'm taking you somewhere so we need to go pack your stuff." He put his arm around her waist and pulled her toward baggage claim to pick up his bags.

 ------------------

 "Oh AJ, it's beautiful!" Kat exclaimed looking out the hotel room window.

 AJ smiled. "I remember that you said you loved it here so I figured this was a great place to spend the weekend."

 Kat recalled telling him, back before they started dating, that she loved York Beach, Maine and she appreciated the sweet gesture. She was enjoying the view when AJ came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.

 "Do you like this surprise?"

 "I love it." she said and turned to kiss him. "What are we going to do tonight?"

 AJ looked at her with a devilish grin. "We're not leaving this room until tomorrow morning!" He picked her up and carried her over to the bed. "I plan on showing you exactly how much I've missed you!"

 -------------------

 Kat rolled over the next morning expecting to find AJ but instead the bed was empty. She sat up quickly, looking around, and didn’t see him anywhere.  It was then that she noticed the note taped to a box next to the bed.

 Kat,

I went out to finish my surprise for you (yes another one!). I’ll be back to get you in an hour so be dressed and ready. Love, AJ

 PS-Don’t open the box!

 Seriously? He leaves a box but doesn’t want her to open it? She was extremely tempted to do it anyway but she knew he loved surprising her, so she decided to exercise some self-control and take a shower instead.  AJ arrived back at the room while she was blow-drying her hair.

 “Hey beautiful.” he said slipping his arms around her waist and kissing her shoulder. “How’d you sleep?”

 She smiled. “Really well. I’ve missed having you hold me when I sleep. I always feel safer having you there.”

 AJ smiled back. “Well just think, a few more months and you can have that every night.”

 “I’m looking forward to it.” She paused for a minute. “You still want me to come out right?”

 AJ turned her around so she was facing him. “Why would you ask me that?”

 Kat sighed. “Never mind. Forget I asked.”

 “Uh-uh, you don’t get to change the subject. Why wouldn’t I want you to come out?”

 “I was starting to worry that your mom wouldn’t be thrilled with the idea and I didn’t know if that would make a difference for you. I don’t want to cause any problems between you and your mother.”

 AJ pulled her over to the bed and sat her down. He kneeled down in front of her and put both hands on her face.

 “You let me worry about my mother. I don’t care who agrees with us or not. I love you Kat, more than I have loved any other woman in my life and all I want is for us to be together, every day. No one will ever change my mind about that.”

Kat gave him a small smile. “Are you sure?”

 AJ pushed her back so that she was lying on the bed and he crawled onto it so that he was straddling her. “I am absolute positive.” He kissed her intensely and decided that the rest of the surprise could wait.

 

Chapter 30 by Kyrie

A few hours later, they were both dressed again and AJ called for a car to take them to the rest of the surprise. He had chartered a boat so that they could take a cruise around some of the islands and enjoy a romantic dinner.

 Kat was shocked when they pulled up to the pier. She knew he had arranged for a boat but this was a ridiculous.

 AJ saw the look on her face and chuckled. “You might want to pick your jaw up off the floor before we get out.”

 Kat elbowed him in the side. “Very funny. When you said you chartered a boat, I thought you meant a sailboat or something, not a yacht!”

 AJ laughed as the car came to a stop. He went around to the trunk and pulled out some bags.

 “What are those for?”

 “Well, I didn’t exactly tell you the whole surprise. We’re going to stay out on the boat tonight.”

 “I didn’t bring anything with me.”

 “I don’t think you’ll need much clothing but I packed some stuff this morning and snuck it out when I left.” he said with a grin and a wink.

 “Is being in bed always on your mind?” Kat asked with a grin.

 “Only when I’m with you.” He kissed her. “You act like it’s a bad thing. I’m a physical person and I want you to feel loved. You know what they say about actions speaking louder than words.”

 “I have to give you that.” Kat went up the boarding plank and turned around to face him. “I also have to admit that your actions are pretty good.” She bolted into the interior room.

 “Pretty good? That’s it?” AJ ran up after her, dropping their bags on deck. “Get over here! I’m going to show you some great actions!”

 -------------------------- 

Kat and AJ decided to eat dinner out on the deck so they could enjoy the sunset. It was gorgeous and there was a beautiful breeze. They had just finished eating when Kat asked about the box.

 “You left a note with a box this morning telling me that I couldn’t open it. Can I have it now?”

 AJ smiled. She looked like a little girl waiting to open her Christmas presents.

 “Please AJ?” She started using the puppy dog eyes and he burst out laughing.

 “Ok, ok! I give.” He went into the cabin and came out holding the box.

 Kat pulled the ribbon off and found a small black jewelry box. Tears welled up in her eyes when she opened it. Lying inside was a yin-yang necklace. It was done with black and white diamonds and when she turned it over she saw their initials engraved in the back.

 “Do you like it?” AJ asked quietly. She hadn’t said anything and he was hoping that was because she liked it.

 Kat wiped the tears away. “It’s beautiful AJ.”

 He smiled and stood up reaching for the necklace. Kat pulled her hair back and he clasped it around her neck. She smiled up at him as he sat down.

“I know you said I wasn’t allowed to buy you anything over the summer but since you agreed to move in with me, I thought that called for a little gift.”

 “I guess I can make an exception this one time.” She played with the charm. “I love it AJ. I think that it’s the most beautiful gift I’ve ever gotten.”

 He leaned over and kissed her gently. “I love you Kat. I wanted to give you this because we may be opposites but we fit perfectly with each other and being with you makes me feel whole.”

 She looked into his eyes and she could see that he truly meant it. There were tears starting to form in his eyes too and she knew that she had made the right decision. They were going to be together no matter how anyone else felt.

 “I love you too AJ.”

 He stood up and reached out for her hand. “Would you dance with me?”

 “I would love too.” 

 They spent the rest of the night dancing and enjoying the peace they found with each other.

Chapter 31 by Kyrie

The weekend flew by and before they knew it, AJ had to leave and Kat had to go back to work. It was even tougher to say goodbye this time but Kat knew that she would be flying out at Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with AJ and the rest of the guys.

 Kat started counting down the days once October came. She talked to AJ every day but work was getting difficult and no one was thrilled that she would be leaving in the middle of the year. The students were tough and she was trying to work an after school program so that she could save up enough money to help pay for the move. She didn’t like relying on AJ to take care of everything.

 A few days before Halloween, Kat got sick. She was overstressed and tired from everything going on and she had let herself get run down. She didn’t tell AJ about it because she didn’t want him to worry. Instead, she spent the next couple of days curled into a ball in bed trying to feel better. Brenda came over on Friday night after work and tried to cheer Kat up a little. Even though she hated horror movies, she agreed to watch one with Kat since it was Halloween.

“Try to pick one that has the least amount of blood and body part loss.” Brenda said flopping down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.

 “That pretty much excludes any one that I wanna see.” Kat rolled her eyes and picked up one that wasn’t too bloody. She popped it into the DVD player and plunked herself down on the couch next to Brenda.

 “Here this one’s for you.” Brenda handed her a small bowl of popcorn.

 Kat stared at her.

 “What? I love you chica but I am NOT sharing your germs. You get your own bowl.”

 Kat just shook her head and hit play on the remote.  They were about an hour into the movie when the slasher had found the lost girl and he was getting ready to ring the bell to get her to open the door. As he reached out to press the button, Kat’s doorbell rang and both girls jumped up screaming.

Kat wrapped the blanket around her, grabbed a bat and started towards the door.

 “Are you freaking crazy? You’re gonna to answer it?” Brenda yelled from behind the couch.

 “Be quiet!” Kat hissed and pulled open the front door.

 “Why are you guys……..” AJ started to ask and trailed off when he saw Kat with the bat in her hand. “What the hell?”

 Kat just stood there looking back and forth between AJ and Nick.

 “What are you supposed to be dressed as?” Nick asked after a few seconds.

 AJ elbowed him in the stomach before he could ask any more stupid questions and took the bat away from Kat. After motioning for Nick to close the door, he pulled Kat over to the couch and had her sit down.

 “Thanks for the heads up AJ! Are you trying to kill us?” Brenda asked sitting in one of the recliners.

 “Sorry, I was trying to surprise Kat.” He turned to his girlfriend with concern in his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?”

 “It just started….”

 “Liar.” Brenda said. “She’s been sick for a week now.”

 “Thanks a lot.” Kat said quietly. “It’s not as bad as it looks.”

 “It looks pretty bad.” Nick said bluntly, sitting on the arm of the couch. “You look like crap.”

 “And you’re an idiot.” Brenda said shaking her head.

 AJ ignored both of them and turned his attention to Kat. “I know you were having a rough time and we came out here to surprise you. You should have told me you weren’t feeling good.”

 “I didn’t want you to worry about it. All teachers get sick, it’s one of the benefits of the job.” she said with a weak smile.

 AJ pulled her into his arms. “I’m supposed to worry about you, that’s my job. I love you Kat. You can’t hide stuff from me.”

 “Sorry.”

 “Don’t be sorry, just tell me when stuff is happening. I would have flown out sooner.”

 Brenda watched AJ and Kat’s interaction. Even though she had reservations about Kat moving in with AJ, she had to admit that he seemed to genuinely care about her.

 Kat started coughing and AJ decided it was time for bed. Since it was late, Nick took one guest room and Brenda took the other. Everyone said goodnight and he got Kat settled into bed. He wrapped her in blankets and then pulled her tightly into his chest.

 “I hope you can get some sleep tonight Kat.”

 She snuggled closer to him. “I will. You’re here.”

 AJ smiled. “I am and I’m not going anywhere until you feel better.” He pulled her hair back out of her face and kissed her on the forehead.  “Tell me if you need anything ok?”

 “I will.”

 Kat yawned and rested her head on his shoulder. “I love you AJ.”

 “I love you too sweetheart. Try and rest.”

 He started to sing to her softly.

 I'd go anywhere for you
Anywhere you asked me to
I'd do anything for you
Anything you want me to
Your love as far as I can see
Is all I'm ever gonna need
There's one thing for sure
I know it's true
Baby, I'd go anywhere for you

 She smiled as she recognized the chorus to “Anywhere for You”. She cuddled in closer and was sound asleep a few minutes later.

 

Chapter 32 by Kyrie

Kat woke up the next morning to find AJ sound asleep and snoring next to her. She was touched that he came out to surprise her and happy to be able to sleep in the same bed as him. Curling up closer to him she tried to rest some more. The movement must have shaken AJ out of his sleep because he pulled his head up to look at her.

 "How do you feel? Do you need anything?"

 "You. I just need you."

 AJ smiled and leaned in to kiss her. "You can have me anytime you want me."

 "Are you sure you want to kiss me? You could get sick too."

 "I don't care if I get sick or not. I am not going to wake up next to you and not kiss you. That's just not happening."

 She smiled and kissed him.

 "How long are you guys staying for?"

"For as long as it takes you to get better. I'm not leaving until I know you're completely ok."

 "I really am ok. Teachers get sick all the time, it's one of our perks."

 "Funny. Seriously Kat, I want to make sure you're ok before we leave."

 Kat sighed knowing this was not an argument she would win.

 "Ok.

 AJ put his hand on her forehead and then looked her in the eyes. "You have to be really sick to not argue with me."

 Kat elbowed him in the stomach. "I won't pick a fight I can't win."

 "Good to know." He kissed her again. "What would you like for breakfast?"

 "Toast." she said quickly. "Just toast."

 AJ looked at her with a confused look on his face. "Is that all you can eat? I can make something else....." He trailed off when he saw her trying to suppress her laughter. "You're just asking for toast because I can make it without burning your house down aren't you?"

 She burst out laughing and nodded.

 "You're a brat, you know that right?"

 "That's why you love me."

 "That and a million other reasons."

 Kat smiled at him and leaned in to kiss him. "Let's get out of bed before we spend all day in here."

 --------------------

 Brenda saved Kat's house by making breakfast for everyone. She had even offered to take Nick to see a few different things in Boston.

 "You owe me. A lot." Brenda whispered to Kat as she and Nick were heading out.

 "I already owe you and besides, being around a hot guy isn't exactly like torture."

 Brenda blushed. She would never admit to Kat that she thought Nick was cute and she really didn't mind his company.

 "Whatever." she said with a smile as they left.

 AJ got Kat settled on the couch and plopped down next to her. "What'd you want to do today?"

 "Rest. Spend some quality time with you."

 "Sounds like a plan."

They picked out a few movies and AJ slid his body down behind Kat's and wrapped his arms around her. She made it through an hour before she was sound asleep again. He finished the movie and watched one more before he decided it was getting late and he should probably start dinner.

 Nick and Brenda pulled in as he was pulling out stuff for salad and spaghetti.

 "Kat will kill you if you burn down her house before she sells it." Brenda teased him.

 "You heard that story huh?"

 "Absolutely. How long has she been out?" she asked as she pointed towards Kat.

 "A couple of hours. Is she really ok?"

 Brenda smiled and laughed. "She's fine. We all get sick at least once a year and it was her turn this month."

 AJ felt a little better hearing this from Brenda. Kat had tried to make him worry less but he wanted to make sure she wasn't just playing it down.

 "What's for dinner?" Nick asked changing the subject.

 Brenda turned to him with a look of surprise on her face. "Oh my god! You just ate like twenty minutes ago. Is food all you think about?"

"Yeah." Nick said shrugging his shoulders. "What's the matter with that?"

 AJ just shook his head. "Why don't you help me?" he asked and handed Nick the lettuce and tomatoes.

 Brenda sat down and watched the two of them try to fix dinner. Things were going fine until they tried to make the garlic bread and burned it. The smoke detector went off and the voice part kept repeating "Fire, fire, fire."

 Kat's head popped up. "Honey, are you trying to make dinner again?"

 AJ was trying to dismantle the detector as Nick walked around opening windows.

 "I'm blaming this one on Nick. He was supposed to keep an eye on the bread but he was too busy staring at Brenda to pay attention."

 Kat started laughing and watched as both Brenda and Nick swung at AJ. He was trying to avoid them and wound up trying to hide behind her.

 “No fair hiding behind the sick girl!” Nick yelled, catching AJ and putting him in a headlock.

 “Fine, fine, I give.” AJ tapped Nick’s arm.

 “Good because I’m hungry!” Nick said letting him go and walking into the kitchen.

 “When are you not?” AJ, Kat and Brenda yelled in unison.

 

Chapter 33 by Kyrie

Dinner turned out pretty good even if the bread was a little burnt. Kat appreciated everyone pitching in and helping since she wasn’t feeling good. Nick even offered to help Brenda do the dishes although Kat had a sneaking suspicion that it’s just because he was interesting in hanging around Brenda a little more.

 They sat there and talked for a while before AJ decided that Kat needed to go back to bed. She had tried to pretend she wasn’t tired but had been yawning for about a half an hour.

 “Let’s get you to bed sleepy.” AJ said and pulled Kat to her feet. “I’m going to join her so you two can have some peace.” he said to Brenda and Nick.

 “Yeah right peace.” Kat said teasing. “Try not to have too much peace.”

 Both Brenda and Nick blushed and turned back to doing the dishes as Kat and AJ returned to her room.

 Kat crawled back under the covers and AJ slid in next to her, pulling her against him tightly. She nestled her head in his shoulder and sighed.

 AJ started to laugh. “What’s the sigh for?”

 Kat grinned. “I’m happy, it’s my happy sigh.”

 “I’m glad to hear I make you happy.” AJ whispered. “Even though I don’t sigh, I hope you know how happy you make me Kat. I love you.”

 “I love you too AJ.”

Kat kissed him and they fell asleep a few moments later.

 ---------------------

 Kat was feeling better the next day and decided that she wanted some fresh air so the foursome drove up to New Hampshire for the day and spent the afternoon on the beach. It was too cold to swim but it was a warm fall so it was the perfect time to just enjoy the scenery. They also drove around looking at some of the fall fairs they were having. It was nice for the four of them to spend time together.

 Kat leaned her head against AJ’s shoulder in the backseat. Brenda had offered to drive since her car was the roomiest. Of course that meant that Nick had to ride in the front seat to keep her company.

 “Those two are cute together aren’t they?” Kat whispered knowing that Brenda would kick her ass if she heard that statement.

 “They are.” AJ laughed. “She seems to have backed down on wanting to strangle him all the time. They’re even agreeing on the same radio stations.”

 Brenda caught their eyes. “What are you two whispering about back there?”

 Both of them started laughing. “Nothing!” Kat said, sounding like the kid who got caught in the cookie jar.

 “Yeah right.” Nick said. “You’d better not be talking about us.”

 Brenda turned beet red and looked at him. “Us? Hang on a second buddy. There is no us.”

 “Sorry, I forgot. There’s no us.” Nick said with a smile on his face.

 Brenda just shook her head and went back to driving.

 “I told you.” Kat said to AJ with a smile. “Give them a little time and see what happens.”

 “Maybe you won’t be the only moving to Cali.” AJ said and went back to cuddling with Kat.

 ----------------------------- 

Brenda and Kat were going back to school the next day but AJ was still concerned because Kat wasn’t a hundred percent better. He and Nick decided to hang around another day or two and they would go into Boston to see one of the producers they worked with. Getting some writing done would keep them busy while the girls were at work and would give them some new material to work with.

 “So,” AJ said on the car ride in, “things seem to be getting good for you and Brenda huh?”

 Nick shoved him. “We’re not a couple dude. I like her but she lives out here and she thinks I’m too young for her.”

 AJ shrugged his shoulders. “Things change. Look at me and Kat. I was a jackass to her but she forgave me.”

“That’s completely different J. You and Kat love each other. Brenda and I are just in that crush phase. It’s not a big deal.”

 “Alright.” AJ responded. They arrived at the producer’s office and spent the afternoon working on some new songs.

Chapter 34 by Kyrie

Kat and Brenda had dinner made by the time the guys got home.

“Something smells really good.” AJ said, wrapping his arms around Kat and kissing her.

 “I’m…..”

 “Hungry. We all know that Nick.” Brenda said teasing him. “That’s why we started the food early.”

 “What are we having?”

 “Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and salad. Everyone go sit, the food’s ready.”

 ------------------------------ 

“Why can’t you move out to Cali sooner Kat? Do you really have to wait until January?” Nick whined after getting his third serving.

 “Hold up there Nicky. Kat is not moving to Cali to cook for you!” AJ said.

 “You can’t keep her all to yourself J. That’s not fair, I’ll starve!” Nick said with the puppy dog eyes.

 Kat laughed. “I’ll cook for you when I move out there Nicky. Maybe I’ll even send you some stuff between now and then.”

 “See J? This is why I love her more than you!”

 “Whatever.” AJ said elbowing him. “Enjoy it now because you’re not staying with us when she comes out!”

 Brenda had to smile watching them go back and forth. She was happy that Kat was moving but she was going to miss all this. It was tough for her to see her best friend leave.

 They finished eating and everyone cleaned up. Brenda left to go home because they had to work and Nick headed to bed since the guys were leaving early the next morning. Kat and AJ crawled into bed and tried to enjoy the little time they had left.

 “I’m really going to miss this.” AJ said, wrapping his arms around her tightly and burying his face in her hair.

 “Me too.” Kat said quietly. “I wish I could move out to Cali sooner but I have to finish out the term here.”

“I know.” AJ said sadly. “You’re still coming out for Thanksgiving right?”

 “Absolutely! I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to see you.” she said looking at him with a smile.

 He smiled back and thought for a few seconds. “Think Brenda might want to come out with you?”

 “I might be able to talk her into it. Why?”

 “I think it might be nice for her and Nick to hang around for a bit. I think Nicky has a crush.”

 “Duh.” Kat said laughing. “Brenda likes him too although I don’t know how serious it is.”

 “Neither do I but it can’t hurt anything.”

 “I guess not. I’ll talk to her and see what she says.”

 “Good.” AJ said and pulled her closer. “Let’s try and get some sleep. I know you have to work and we’re leaving early.”

 “I know.” Kat said quietly and curled in closer. “I love you AJ.”

 “Love you too sweetheart.”

 AJ kissed her on the forehead and sang to her while she fell asleep.

Chapter 35 by Kyrie

The weeks before Thanksgiving flew by and Brenda agreed to go out to California with Kat for Thanksgiving.  AJ booked the flights and had a car service pick the girls up at Kat’s house. He promised that he and Nick would pick them up personally from the airport.

The girls departed the airplane walkway and found AJ and Nick exactly where they said they would be. Brenda was shocked when Nick bounded over to hug her. AJ swept Kat off her feet and kissed her softly.

 “I missed you.” he whispered into her ear.

 “I missed too.” Kat said with a smile. She looked over at Nick who had his arm around Brenda’s shoulder. “Apparently, we’re not the only two who missed someone.”

 AJ laughed. “Nope. He’s been a pain in the ass since you said she was coming. He even asked if he could stay at my house while you guys are here.”

 “You must have been thrilled at the idea.”

 “As long as you’re here, I don’t care who else is there. An entire army could be living in the basement and I wouldn’t give a damn.”

 He wrapped his arm around Kat’s waist and pulled her in tightly. “Let’s go get your bags.”

 ---------------------------------

After everyone got settled in, AJ asked the girls if they minded going shopping to pick up the food.

 “So, we’re just going for the ride right?” Brenda asked with a grin.

 “Of course.” Kat said with a smile. “I’m sure the boys have everything planned and under control. They know exactly what they’re getting, right guys?”

 “Right. We’re totally fine. Right J?” Nick said nodding at AJ.

 “Sure, we’re good.”

 AJ and Nick stayed silent on the ride over to the grocery store. Neither one wanted to admit to the girls that they had no idea what they were doing. They walked around the grocery store loading up on things they thought they might need while the girls watched them. After the fourth time around the produce isle, Kat stopped them.

 “Ok guys. We’ve let it go on long enough. Let us take it from here.”

 “But we’re fine.” Nick said.

 “Really? How come you bought a chicken instead of a turkey?” Brenda asked with a smirk.

 “And cantaloupe is not squash.” Kat said holding up the fruit.

 “I know when to surrender.” AJ said with a red face. “Can you guys help us with the rest of the stuff?”

 Kat and Brenda put back all the items they didn’t need and then returned to get ones that the boys had missed. It took them forever to get through the long lines but they finally headed home.

 “Who exactly is cooking on Thanksgiving?” Kat asked.

 “Me?” AJ said, part statement and part question.

 “God I hope not!” Brenda yelled. “I want to enjoy my meal not get food poisoning!” She raised her hand. “I vote for Kat.”

 “Me too!” Nick said raising his hand quickly.

 “Me three!” AJ said laughing. “Guess you’re it.”

 Kat smiled.  “Fine by me.”

 ----------------------------------- 

The foursome decided to go to dinner and to see a concert down by the beach. It was beautiful outside and they enjoyed spending time together. By the time they got back to the house, it was late and they decided to get some rest since the next two days would be busy.

 Nick and Brenda were sleeping in the guest rooms and Kat was sharing AJ’s room with him.

“So you think those two will actually spend the night in separate rooms?”

 “Not a chance.” Kat said with a smile. “They think they’re being slick but they haven’t left each other’s sides all night. I give them ten minutes.”

 As soon as she made the statement, they heard one of the doors open and close and then the other open and close.

 “Guess it didn’t even take ten minutes!” AJ said bursting into laughter.

 “I guess not.”

 AJ wrapped his arms around Kat’s waist and pulled her into a tight hug. “I am so glad you’re here.”

 “Really?” Kat asked with a grin.

“Really.” AJ said.

 “How about you show me?”

 “With pleasure!”

Chapter 36 by Kyrie

Kat woke up the next morning and started getting stuff ready. She knew that everyone was coming and she wanted to make sure she had everything ready so she was racing around the next day. By the time everyone else woke up, she had done most of the baking and was starting to clean the turkeys.

 AJ came downstairs and found Kat in the kitchen with a bunch of pots and pans all over the counter.

“What smells so good?” he asked kissing her and wrapping his arm around her waist.

 “Pumpkin pie. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to get a head start.”

 “Kat, I didn’t ask you here to just cook. I wanted you to have some time to relax and just enjoy the holiday.”

 “I will, I promise. I want to get a lot done today so I can enjoy everyone’s company tomorrow.”

 “Can I help?”

 Kat laughed and pointed at a chair. “You can sit there and look handsome.”

 “Very funny. I mean it. What can I do?”

 “How about just keep me company?”

 “I can do that.” he said with a smile.

 About an hour later, Nick emerged and a few minutes later, Brenda came down.

 “Sooooo,” AJ said with a grin, “how’d you two sleep?”

 Both of them turned beet red and looked down at the floor. Kat and AJ burst out laughing.

 “You two suck at hiding stuff.” Kat said finally able to catch her breath.

 “We’re not trying to hide….”

 “Give it up guys, you’ve been caught.”  AJ interrupted. “Why can’t the two of you just admit that you like each other? You act like two little kids that have a crush.”

 “Fine!” Brenda and Nick yelled at the same time. Brenda looked over at Nick and then turned to face AJ and Kat. “Fine, we like each other and yes we spent the night in the same room. Can I get some coffee now?”

 Kat chuckled and poured two cups of coffee. 

 “Why don’t we let the girls chat and Kat finish cooking?” AJ suggested to Nick, steering him out the slider onto the deck.

 “You two are relentless, you know that right?” Brenda said to Kat.

 “I know we are.” Kat responded back with a smile.

 “Well, we finally admitted it so you two can back off now and we can all get back to what we were doing. Can I help you with anything?”

 “Sure, you can help me clean out the turkeys.”

 “Not happening! Pick something easy and less gross.”

 Kat laughed. “What about cookies?”

 “Much better. Where’s the dough?”

 ----------------------------

A few hours later, Kat was cleaning up the kitchen and Nick had taken Brenda out to sightseeing. AJ was glad to have a little alone time with Kat. He needed to talk to her and didn’t want to do it around everyone else.

 The two of them had just gotten settled on the couch when he turned off the TV.

 “We need to talk.”

 “That doesn’t sound good.” Kat said with a sad look on her face. She looked down not wanting to see his eyes.

AJ cupped her chin in his hand, pushed her face up and kissed her softly.  “It’s nothing like that Kat. It’s not bad.”

 Kat still looked concerned.

 “I wanted to ask you if you would mind talking to my mother. I would like her to be here with us tomorrow but I know things haven’t exactly been great between you. Can she come to dinner tonight and see if we can work this out?”

 Kat didn’t even hesitate. “You don’t have to ask my permission AJ. She’s your mother and she has every right to be here tomorrow. I figured she was coming.”

 “Can we still do dinner tonight?”

 “Absolutely.”

 “I love you. I hope you know that.” he said pulling her onto his lap and draping his arms around her.

 “I do and I love you too.”

 

Chapter 37 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Thank you to Sapphire and JordansLady for the comments and feedback. Hope these chapters are ok!

Denise arrived an hour later and AJ met her at the door.

 “Hi Ma.” he said giving her a hug.

 “Hi sweetheart.” Denise paused for a minute. “Does Kat know I’m coming?”

 “Of course she does. I talked to her about it before I called you.”

 “And she was ok with it?”

 AJ smiled. “Yes Ma. She’s fine with it.”

 “Ok.” Denise said, slightly relieved. She had decided to put aside whatever concerns she had and try to see things from AJ’s perspective. After their last fight, she didn’t want to strain their relationship any further and if that meant accepting Kat wholeheartedly, then that’s what she would do.

 She followed her son down the hallway and into the kitchen. Kat was setting the table and turned around when she heard them come in. She stayed quiet because she wasn’t sure how Denise would react to her being there.

 Denise walked over to Kat and gave her a hug. “How are you?”

 “I’m good, how are you?” Kat asked, relaxing slightly.

 “I’m fine. Thank you for having me over for dinner. I know it’s the night before Thanksgiving and you have a lot going on. I wish you guys had let me take you out to dinner.”

AJ laughed as the doorbell rang. “Pizza and salad is here!”

 Denise chuckled. “I see my son did the cooking tonight.”

 “He wanted to give me a break since I’m doing the cooking for tomorrow.” Kat said with a smile.

 “I was trying to be considerate.” AJ said coming back down the hallway with the pizza. “My mother taught me that.”

 “I apparently taught you how to call for takeout too!”

 Kat couldn’t stop herself from laughing. “He does it quite well!”

 “Stop picking on me.” AJ said kissing his mom on the cheek and pulling Kat into a hug. “Let’s eat.”

 ----------------

The dinner went well and by the end, Kat felt much more comfortable with Denise. She seemed to be more receptive of Kat this time around and it made for a nice night. Denise had even offered to help Kat get the turkeys in the oven.

 “Can I help?” AJ asked.

 “No.” Kat and Denise replied in unison.

 “That hurts.” AJ said putting a hand over his heart. “No one wants my help.”

 “Why don’t you finish cleaning up the living room and dining room so we don’t have to do it in the morning?” Kat suggested.

 “Fine. I can tell when I’m not wanted.” He pretended to tear up and left the room.

 Kat pulled out the two turkeys and unwrapped the stuffing she had made earlier.

 “That smells wonderful.” Denise commented.

 “Thank you.”

 “What can I help you with?”

 “Would you mind stuffing one of the turkeys so we can get both of them in the oven at the same time?”

 “Of course not.” Denise listened as Kat explained how she was going to do it and they went right to work.

 It took them about twenty minutes to finish and then Denise helped her get some of the appetizers ready.

 “I can come over in the morning if you need the help.”

 “I don’t want you to have to work on Thanksgiving. My friend Brenda will be helping me.”

 “It’s not a problem. I’m used to cooking for these guys and trust me, you should take all the help you can get.” Denise laughed softly.

 “I’d appreciate it. I’m starting to find that just cooking for your son and Nick is an all-day process.”

 “Adding in Brian, Howie, Kevin and their families makes it an impossible task. What time is everyone coming?”

 “We told them around one.”

 “Then I’ll be here at ten to help you and Brenda with everything else.”

 “Thank you Denise.” Kat paused for a few seconds. “I don’t mean just for the help. Thank you for giving me a chance. I know you’re very protective of your son and I understand your concern. I promise not to disappoint you.”

 “I’m sure you won’t.” Denise said giving her a hug. “Is there anything else you need before I head home?”

 “I think we’re good.” Kat said with a smile. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

 Kat hugged AJ’s mom and walked her out after she said goodbye to her son. Kat came back in and found AJ sprawled out on the couch.

 “Cleaning tired you out huh?” Kat said moving his feet so she could sit.

 “Wiped me out completely.” he said pretending to yawn.

 “That’s a shame. I was going to suggest that we enjoy the time alone we have before Brenda and Nick get back but I guess…………..”

 AJ jumped up and pulled Kat to her feet. He crushed his mouth against hers and drew her against him tightly. “I just got my second wind.”

 “I can see that.” Kat smiled and raced him up to the bedroom.

 

Chapter 38 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Sorry the new chpater too such a long time, had trouble writing it. Hope it's ok!

Denise arrived early the next morning and helped Kat and Brenda with all the food. AJ and Nick managed to keep themselves out of the way and took care of all the little things that needed to be done. Everything was pretty much finished by the time people started showing up and Kat was glad they had done a lot the day before.

 Howie, Leigh, James and Holden showed up first followed by Kevin, Kristen and Mason. Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee arrived as few minutes later.

 “Something smells really good!” Leigh said finding Kat in the throng of people. “Is there anything I can help you do?”

 “No but thank you. Denise and Brenda pretty much did everything this morning and I think we’re all set.”

 “Thanks for having us by the way. Cooking for this many gets crazy!” Leighanne said joining the two women.

 “Nah,” Nick said, “Kat’s used to this. You should see her family!”

 “Thanks for the vote of confidence Nick.”

 “Anytime.” he replied with a smile and went off to find Brenda.

 “Nick seems pretty happy huh?” Kristen asked joining the conversation.

 Kat smiled and was glad that she had Brenda out there for support. She was also happy that she and Nick were getting along so well. It was nice to see her friend with someone who made her smile so much.

 “Hey beautiful.” AJ said slipping his arm around Kat’s waist and kissing her softly. “You did a great job.”

 “You guys did most of the work.” Kat smiled up at him.

 “Uh I don’t think so. If Nick and I had been left to our own devices we’d be having pizza. You saved Thanksgiving.”

“Well, maybe a little.” Kat said laughing.

 ‘Hey, are we ready to eat yet?” Nick yelled over.

 “My God,” Leigh said, “that boy can’t go 20 minutes without eating. Is he still going through a growth spurt?”

 Everyone cracked up and headed over to the dinner table to take their seats. Once they all got settled, AJ stood up and raised his glass.

 “I want to thank everybody for coming. Thanksgiving seems to be the one holiday that we can all spend together wherever we are.  I know some of you are dying to eat,” he said looking over at Nick,” but I just want to say a couple of things.”

 AJ turned to Denise. “Thank you for so many things Mom. You’ve always stood by me and you’ve helped me deal with all the messes I’ve made. You never gave up on me and encouraged me to grow. I love you.”

“I love you too sweetheart.” Denise said wiping her eyes.

 “And to you guys,” AJ said looking at the boys, “you’re my brothers and I couldn’t ask for better family. I know I’ve disappointed you all at some point and I know I’ve caused a lot of drama. Even though I tried pushing everyone away, you all stood by me and kicked my ass when I needed it. Thanks for hanging in there with me and for keeping us together.”

 He turned to Kristen, Leigh and Leighanne. “Thank you for keeping these guys sane and from getting big heads. You’re all like sisters to me and I’m glad you decided to keep these boys!”

 Finally, he turned to Kat with tears in his eyes.  “And I saved the best for last Kat.” He took a deep breath. “I can’t believe that I finally found you. I never thought I would find someone who made me comfortable with myself and who loved me for me. Someone who didn’t want anything from me except for me to love them. You changed my life for the better the minute you walked into it even though I didn’t know it at the time. You forgave me for being a dumbass and welcomed me with open arms. You’re the most amazing woman and I am extremely thankful that you’re mine.”

 He leaned over and kissed Kat on the lips. “I love you Kat Brady.”

 Kat had lost her ability to speak. No one had ever said anything like that about her before and she was stunned that AJ had done it in front of everyone. It took her a few seconds but she looked back up at him and told him that she loved him too.

 Nick cleared his throat and everyone looked at him. “I know we’re all in this magical moment and all but the food’s getting cold. Can we eat now?”

 Brenda elbowed in him the stomach. “Way to kill a magical moment.”

 “Sorry.” Nick said quietly and everyone chuckled.

 “All right Nick. Let’s eat.” AJ replied.

 

Chapter 39 by Kyrie

The family spent the next few hours eating, laughing and appreciating the time that had together. Kat and Brenda would be heading back home in two days and the guys would return to writing some new material for a new album. Everyone wanted to enjoy the one day that everyone stopped everything and just hung out together.

 Denise offered to help Kat and Brenda clean up the kitchen after everyone had left. AJ and Nick helped out by cleaning up the rest of the house. After everything was finished, Brenda and Nick headed up to bed. Denise surprised AJ by asking if she and Kat could have some time alone and he reluctantly agreed not sure if it was the best idea.

 “I promise not to say anything wrong AJ. I just want to talk to her.” Denise said hoping to ease her son’s mind.

 “Alright.” AJ left his mother and Kat in the living room and headed down to the basement to work on a song he had started

 The women got settled on the couch and Denise waited for a few seconds before she spoke.

 “I know that I’ve been hard on you and I know that you understand why. I listened to what AJ said about you this afternoon and I think I’ve been wrong in my concern over how you felt about him. I can see that you two love each other very much and I’m sorry for not realizing it sooner. You’ve been good for and to my son and he’s lucky to have you.”

 Kat was dumbfounded at Denise’s admission. She thought that it would take more time for his mother to accept her and to put her concerns behind them.

 “Thank you Denise. I know I’ve said it before but I love AJ and I’m not going to hurt him. I don’t want anything from him; I just want him.”

 Denise smiled. “I know, I can see that.” She rose to her feet and said she would be going. Kat yelled down to the basement to get AJ.

 AJ climbed the stairs and was surprised at how relaxed the two women seemed. He was afraid that his mother was going to give Kat a hard time but it looked like the two women had cleared something up. He smiled, walked his mother out to her car and said his goodbyes. He returned to the house and swept Kat into a hug.

 “I take it things went well with my mom.” he said putting her down and kissing her gently.

 Kat smiled. “It did. She said that she was ok with us being together and that we could put this behind us and move forward.”

 “Good! I’m glad she finally came to her senses and grasped that you’re an incredible woman who has been nothing but good for me!”

 “I think you’re giving me too much credit AJ. You are the most amazing man I have ever met and I’m lucky to have you in my life.”

 He started to say something but Kat cut him off with a kiss.

 “Don’t say anything. I love you and you make me unbelievably happy. I can’t imagine myself being this happy with anyone else and I want you to know that I will do whatever it takes to keep you happy.”

 He smiled down at her. “Well, it won’t take much. Just you being with me will do that. I don’t need anything more than that Kat. Just be with me.”

 “I can do that.” Kat grabbed him by the hand and led him upstairs to the bedroom.

 

Chapter 40 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Sorry for the slower updating. Thank you to Sapphire, Jordanslady, Rainbowbrite006 and Hazel_85 for reviewing. You guys are great! Keep them coming!

Brenda and Nick were gone by the time Kat and AJ woke up. Brenda knew that the two of them would need some time together before they headed back the next day so she left a note saying that she took Nick out to do some exploring.

 “She took Nick huh?” AJ asked with a smile.

 “Yup.” Kat laughed. “She’ll drag him around to some places she wants to see before we leave. He’ll be exhausted by the time they get back.”

 “I hope she feeds him while they’re out because I don’t want to deal with a tired, hungry Nick. It won’t be pleasant for any of us!”

 “I’m sure Brenda knows that and she’ll make sure he eats.”

 “Good.” AJ said sliding his arms around Kat’s waist and kissing her neck. “I want to us to be able to enjoy the day together, just the two of us.”

 “Sounds like a good plan.” Kat said with a smile, turning to face him. “What did you have in mind?”

 A grin spread across AJ’s face. “I have a few ideas, most of which consist of us not leaving the bedroom.”

 Kat pretended to look shocked. “No! The bedroom? You never want to do anything in the bedroom.”

 “Very funny!”

 She chuckled. “I’ll make you a deal. We can stay in bed for most of the day but I planned a nice dinner for us down by the water. Is that ok?”

 “I’m supposed to be planning stuff!”

 “Well too bad. I get to surprise you this time.”

 “I thought you said you hated surprises?”

 “I said I hated them being sprung on me not that I didn’t like springing them on other people!”

 “Can I at least pay?”

 “Absolutely not! It’s my surprise for you not the other way around.”

 AJ just shook his head knowing that this wasn’t an argument he’d win.

 “Fine. What time do we need to leave?”

 “By 4:30.”

 “Ok.” He swept Kat up in his arms. “I’m going to use these next few hours wisely!”

 --------------------------

Brenda and Nick pulled into the driveway a little after 5 and found AJ’s truck gone.

 “Finally.” Nick said loudly.

“Huh?” Brenda looked at him with a quizzical expression.

 “The two of them are gone! We don’t have to leave the house to hang out. The babysitters have left the building!”

 Brenda laughed. “They’re not that bad Nick.”

 “Yes they are!” Nick said with a chuckle. “We’ll be lucky if they don’t try to get us married before you guys head back!”

 “Kat wouldn’t do that to me!”

 Nick just looked at her.

 “What? I don’t want to get too involved and Kat knows that.” She watched as he just stared at her and she finally realized how that came out. “She wouldn’t try to marry me off not that she wouldn’t stick you with me.”

 Nick smiled and shook his head. “It’s a good thing you cleared that up. I was starting to get a complex.”

 “Oh no, I wouldn’t want you to do that!” Brenda said with mock concern and a gleam in her eye.

 “Wow, the sarcasm is overwhelming.” Nick walked over to the fridge. “Think we can grab dinner soon?”

 “I hate you.”

 Nick turned around with surprise.

 “You’re a damn toothpick and you eat everything in sight. You suck.”

 “That’s not all I do.” he replied with a smile and started to walk over to her.

 “Uh-uh, stop right there!” she said holding up her hand. “AJ may be able to pull the crap with Kat and get somewhere but there’s no chance it’s gonna work on me. Let’s go get dinner.”

 Nick grinned and grabbed her hand pulling her towards the door.

 --------------------

 AJ was touched when they reached the beach and found that Kat had set up a romantic picnic. He was used to being the one to plan all the surprises and to go out of his way to please someone else. Seeing all that Kat had done made him love and appreciate her all the more.

 “Do you like it?” Kat asked hesitantly, standing at his side and biting her bottom lip. She was concerned because he hadn’t said anything.

 AJ turned to face her. “I love it. And more than that, I love you.” He leaned in and kissed her gently.

 Kat beamed. “Good, I’m glad.”

 She pulled him over to the blanket and started rummaging through the basket she had set up. It took her a few seconds to find what she was looking for.

 “One more surprise.” she said and handed him a small box.

 “You’re not supposed to be buying me stuff Kat. I want to….”

 “I don’t want to hear how this is your department Mr. Romantic. I wanted to get this for you and I’m hoping you like it.”

 AJ untied the ribbon and opened the top of the box. Inside lay a silver charm on a silver chain. The charm was a small skull with a rose curled up behind it so that you could see the petals through the eyes. He ran his finger around the edge and turned it over and over in his hand.

 “I don’t know what to say.”

 “If you don’t like it…..”

 AJ cut her off with a kiss. “I love it.” He undid the clasp, put it around his neck and kissed her again. “Thank you. Not just for the necklace, but for the picnic, coming out here, agreeing to move your entire life out here. I can’t tell you how happy you make me.”

 He stood up and pulled her with him. Cupping his hand under her chin, he whispered, “I love you Kat Brady.”

 “I love you too AJ.”

 He grinned and ran his hand down the side of her face. “Can I have this dance?”

 “There’s no music.”

 AJ wrapped one arm around her waist and took her hand in the other one. “I can fix that.” He started humming the music for “As Long As You Love Me.” He pulled her in tighter and swung her around, lifting her off the ground.

 “How’s that?” he asked quietly.

 “Perfect.” she answered with a smile and kissed him softly. “Absolutely perfect.”

 

Chapter 41 by Kyrie

AJ and Nick took the girls to the airport early the next morning. Kat and Brenda needed to be back for work the next day and Kat was putting her house up for sale later that week.

 “Are you sure you have to go back? Can’t you just stay here?” AJ asked glumly.

 Kat shook her head. “You know I have to work till January.” AJ still looked at her sadly. “I promise the next two months will fly by. You’re still coming out for Christmas and New Year’s right?”

 “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

 Kat smiled. “I know it seems like forever but it’s just a few more weeks and then you can stay for a week with me.”

 The prospect made AJ grin. “I’m looking forward to a quiet week with you.”

 “Don’t forget about me!” Nick said putting his arm around both of them.

 “What do you mean you?” AJ asked staring at him.

 “I’m coming with you.”

 “I don’t think so! I want a week for just Kat and me, not you, Kat and me.”

 “Don’t worry, he’ll be staying with me.” Brenda said returning from the check in counter. She looked over and Nick and shook her head. “Although I may regret it when I get done buying all the groceries!”

“Hey, I told you I’d do that when we fly out here!” Nick said loudly.

 Brenda chuckled. “Ok Hollow Leg. I’ll let you pick up the tab.”

 “Thanks.” he said, kissing her on the cheek. He turned to face AJ. “Now can I come?”

 “As long as she gets stuck with you and not us!”

 “Thanks AJ!” Brenda said whacking him on the arm.

 “Sorry but you picked him!”

 “Thanks a lot!” Nick said smacking his other arm.

 “Help me!” AJ said and darted behind Kat. “Keep these two away from me!”

 Kat laughed. “Alright children, let’s all behave now.”

 The agent at the counter called for the boarding of their flight and the mood suddenly went south. Brenda pulled Nick off to the side to talk to him and to give AJ and Kat a moment to themselves before they had to be on the plane.

 AJ wrapped his arms around Kat’s waist and pulled her in tightly.

 “Promise you’ll call me when you land?” he whispered into her ear.

 “I promise. I love you AJ.”

 “I love you too.”

 He hugged her again and kissed her softly at first and then deepened the intensity. They made the final boarding call and Kat turned to leave.

 “I love you AJ. I’ll call you when we get back home.” Kat hated seeing the look in his eyes every time she left. There was such sadness in them and it broke her heart.

 “I love you too! Be careful!”

Nick joined AJ and waved as the two of them watched Brenda and Kat board the plane. Once the door to the boarding gate was closed, Brenda put her arm around Kat’s shoulders.

 “I know it’s getting harder to leave him but just think that in a couple of weeks, he’ll be out here for a while.”

 Kat nodded her head but tears formed in her eyes. Brenda stopped her and gave her a giant hug.

 “Love you chica. I promise everything will be fine, ok?”

 Kat nodded again and followed her friend onto the plane not knowing how many more times she could do this.

 ----------------------

 Nick practically had to drag AJ back to the truck.

 “Man, you’ve gotta get past this. You’re going to see her in a couple of weeks and she’s gonna move out  a month later. You act like you’re not going to see her again.”

 “I don’t mean to.” AJ said quietly. “It’s just that I’m so much happier when she’s here. It’s like I feel more comfortable when she’s with me. I’ve never had that before Nick.”

 “I know.” Nick said nodding. And he really did know. He remembered all the miserable relationships J had had and how many girls he wished J wouldn’t have wasted as much time on. Kat was really the first woman in AJ’s life that he actually, truly liked and respected. Most of the others just wanted something from him whether it be money or fame or whatever.

 “Look, let’s go find the guys and we’ll go play golf or something. We’ll keep you busy until you get sick and tired of us, k?”

 AJ smiled and climbed into the truck. “Sounds good Nicky.”

Chapter 42 by Kyrie

A week had flown by and Brenda decided they needed a girls’ night out. She went looking for her friend and when she couldn’t find her in her classroom, she decided to check the office. Kat was sitting at one of the back desks, talking on the phone, looking serious. Brenda walked over to get her attention and mouthed “What’s up?”

 Kat held her finger up and thanked whoever was on the other line. She hung up and looked up at Brenda with a smile.

 “It’s done.”

 Brenda cocked one eyebrow. “What’s done?”

 “The house.”

 “Still confused sweetie.” Brenda said shaking her head.

 “I sold it!”

 “What?” Brenda said loudly. “How did you do that? It hasn’t even been put up for sale yet.”

 “The realtor had a friend who saw the listing she was putting together. He offered me $20,000 more than I was looking for.”

 Brenda’s mouth fell open. “Damn! When do you have to be out?”

 “That’s the sucky part. He really wants to move in right after New Year’s. I’m not flying out to California until the end of January.”

 “Do it! You can come and live with me until you move. You have to take it. You’re not going to get an offer like that again.”

 “Are you sure? You’re used to living by yourself and I don’t want to be in the way.”

 Brenda put her arm around Kat’s shoulder and started walking back down to their rooms. “I’m absolutely sure. I need to enjoy whatever time I have with my best friend since she’s gonna ditch me soon for some hot guy and a beautiful house with ocean views.”

 “I’m never gonna ditch you!” Kat said with a smile. “Besides, you never know. You and Mr. Carter might get more serious and someone else could be moving out there too!”

 “Whoa, put on the breaks. Not happening anytime soon.”

 “But you like Nick.”

 “I do. A lot. But I’m used to my life the way it is and I’m not up for making any big changes for a while. Besides, I still have to work the whole year unlike some other people.”

 “Wise ass!”

“I know I am. That’s why you love me.”

 “You’re right, that’s totally why.”

 “Funny. Speaking of loving me though, are you up for a girls’ night out? We haven’t done anything just the two of us in a while and I figured movie and dinner.”

 “Sounds like a plan.”

 “Good. I’ll pick you up around 7 k?”

 Kat nodded. “That’s fine. It’ll give me a chance to talk to AJ about the house.”

 “See you then chica.” Brenda left to get her stuff and Kat needed to finish getting some things ready before she headed back to her house. She was glad to be getting out but she wished she wasn’t so tired lately.

 -------------------------

 AJ was finishing a track in the studio when his cell phone rang. He noticed on the caller id that it was Kat and decided to have a little fun with his girlfriend.

 “Hi, Tony’s Pizza.”

 “Uh excuse me?”

 “Tony’s Pizza, pick up or delivery?”

 “I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number.”

 AJ heard the dial tone and waited to Kat to dial the number again. He answered on the second ring.

 “Hey you! How are you?”

 “AJ?”

 “Yeah it’s me.”

 “Oh ok.”

 “You sound like you were expecting it to be someone else.” He paused for a few seconds to see if she would say anything. “Maybe someone named Tony?”

 “You’re an ass!”

 AJ burst out laughing. “You made it too easy. I had to find a way to make you laugh since I can’t be there in person.”

 “Very funny.”

 “I know.”

 “Anyway, I have some good news that I wanted to tell you.”

 AJ pulled his chair into a straight sitting position. “Are you moving out here earlier?”

 “No.” Kat said chuckling. “But I did sell my house today.”

 “How did you do that? I thought you were going to put in on the market in a few days.”

 “Brenda asked me the same thing. I guess my realtor had a friend who saw my listing and made an offer for the house. He’s paying more than the asking price so I’ll be able to pay you back for all the moving expenses and I’ll have enough to share the bills until I can get a job out there.”

 AJ groaned. “We’re really not going to have this conversation again are we?”

 “We don’t need a conversation. I’m just telling you what I’m going to do.”

 AJ ran his hand over his face. “I thought you agreed to let me pay the moving expenses since you were uprooting your entire life and coming out here for me. And I don’t care if you can split the bills. It’s not a big deal.”

 “It is for me AJ.” Kat said with a sigh. “I don’t want you footing the bill for everything. If I was moving in with anyone else, I would pay for my share.”

 “But I’m not everyone else Kat. I’m the man who loves you and wants to take care of you.”

 “I know and I can’t tell you how much that means to me but I need to be able to contribute something AJ. Please?”

 AJ shook his head. “Fine. If it will make you happy than I’ll let you contribute a little. Not everything though.”

 “AJ…”

 “Nope, no more discussion. Deal’s done, don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’m changing the subject now.”

 Kat laughed. “You’re good at that.”

 “I know. I’m even better at it in person with a bedroom close by.” AJ said with a sexy laugh.

 “You definitely are!”

 “I’m glad we’re in agreement about that at least! I booked my ticket and I’m flying out a couple of days before Christmas. Is that still ok?”

“Absolutely! I can’t wait to see you. I miss sleeping in bed alone.”

 “Well, you better rest up now because you won’t get much sleep while I’m there!”

 “Looking forward to that!” Kat said with a chuckle. “I’d better get going. I told Brenda we could hang out tonight.”

 “Ok. Text me before you go to sleep.”

 “I will. I love you!”

 “Love you too baby.”

 AJ hung up and started making some calls. He had one more surprise to plan before he flew out to Kat’s for Christmas.

Chapter 43 by Kyrie

The next few weeks felt like only a few days. Kat had spent as much time as possible cleaning and packing up most of her things. She had already put furniture she wouldn’t need for a while into storage and rented a U-Haul truck for the end of January. Brenda was letting her store things in her basement since she would be staying with her until the move.

 Kat and Brenda had the week of Christmas and New Year’s off and AJ and Nick would be flying in tomorrow. She was going to pick them up and Brenda had suggested another girls’ night at her house before everyone arrived.

 “Hey sweetie.” Brenda said opening her door to find her friend waiting with pizza.

 “Hey.” Kat said quietly stepping through the door.

 “What’s wrong?” Brenda asked, concerned for her friend. “AJ’s coming in tomorrow. I thought you’d be happy.”

 Kat smiled. “I am happy, just really tired.”

 “I think you should go to the doctor, you’ve been tired like this for a while now.”

 Kat shook her head no. “It’s probably all the packing and moving. It’s stressful turning my whole life upside down in a short amount of time. I’m sure it’s going to be easier after the holidays.”

 Brenda looked doubtful. “Promise me that if it’s not, you’ll go to the doctor’s.”

 “I promise. I think you’re worried for nothing. I know it’s going to be fine.”

 Brenda. “I feel déjà vu coming on. Remember a couple of years ago. You were tired like this before and you know what happened then.”

 “I know it’s not that. I’ve had my checkups and everything’s been ok.”

 Brenda sighed. “Well, I’m holding you to that promise to see the doctor if this doesn’t get better.”

 “I promise to go but I want to ask you a favor.”

 “Whatever you need.”

 “Don’t tell AJ.”

 “You haven’t told him?”

 “No, it’s never come up and it’s never been a problem. Please don’t tell him that I’ve been tired or anything ok?”

 “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I know you don’t but I’m asking you as my friend to do this for me.”

 “I’ll do it on one condition.”

 “What?”

 “If it gets worse, you tell him. If not, I’ll break the promise and do it myself.”

 Kat sighed. “Alright. Deal.”

 Neither woman mentioned the topic again that night. They enjoyed dinner and decided to watch another scary movie even though the last time they did, AJ almost got knocked out with a bat. Thankfully, the guys didn’t show up as a surprise that night and Kat decided to stay at Brenda’s so she wouldn’t have to drive home too late. She would be able to go home and change before she had to be at the airport.

 “Do you need anything?” Brenda asked.

 “No, I’m fine.” Kat said with a smile. “Just going to get some beauty sleep.”

 “Alright. Let me know if you need something.”

 Brenda gave her friend a hug and watched her head down to the guest room. She loved her friend but regretted making that deal with her. It didn’t matter now. What’s done is done and she would do what her friend asked.

 

Chapter 44 by Kyrie

Kat was waiting for the boys at the airport the next day. Brenda had some things to do but would meet them at Kat’s house later on that day. She reminded Kat that Nick would be staying with her so that he wouldn’t be in their hair.

Kat paced back and forth at the gate watching for people to start deplaning. The flight had been on time and she was aching to see AJ. Being away from him for the last month was hard and she just wanted to be able to be with him for as long as she could before he would have to leave again.

 After pacing around for 10 minutes, she finally saw people starting to exit the ramp. They filed out and she searched for AJ or Nick. When the last lone person came through, she went up to the attendant and asked if there was anyone left on the plane. The woman went and checked and told Kat that no one else was remaining.

 Kat went back to the TV to check and make sure she had the right gate and time. The flight number AJ had given her was there at the same gate she checked and she started to think she had written it down wrong. She started to dial his cell phone when she was tapped on the shoulder.

 “Hi Kat.” Marcus said when she turned around. “The guys asked me to come get you. There were some girls on the plane that recognized them and started calling their friends.”

 Just as Marcus was finishing the sentence, about 30 girls showed up and went to wait at the airline gate.

 “As you can see, the guys thought it would be a better idea if they deplaned and snuck downstairs instead. They’re waiting out near returns.”

 “You left them alone? They’re going to get mugged.”

 Marcus laughed. “You should know me better than that. Ray’s waiting with them. We should probably get going though before someone else spots them.”

 “Let’s go.”

 Marcus shielded Kat from the crowd and rushed her out to where the guys were waiting. AJ opened his arms the minute that he saw her and she ran into them.

 “I’ve missed you so much babe.” AJ whispered quietly. “You don’t know how happy I am to see you.”

 He pulled back so he could see his face and then kissed her, wrapping his arms around her tightly.

 “I’ve missed you too. I’ve been dying to see you.”

 “Then I’m glad we didn’t have to wait much longer.” he said with a smile.

 “I know you’re happy to see each other but let’s get cuddly in the car before that horde of girls figure out that you guys are out here.”  Marcus nudged them into the backseat of the Escalade and hopped in the passenger side. Once everyone was in, Ray took off towards Kat’s house.

 -------------

 They barely had time to settle in before Brenda arrived to pick Nick up. She knew Kat wanted as much time alone with AJ as she could get before Christmas Eve. They would be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with Kat’s family and Brenda and Nick would be joining them.

“Alright Hollow Leg, let’s get you in and settled before we have to go and buy out the grocery store.” Brenda said pushing Nick out the door. Ray and Marcus had decided that the guys would be ok at Brenda and Kat’s houses but they would stay close in case they were needed.

 “C’mon guys. Don’t you want to keep me a little longer?” Nick asked Kat and AJ.

 AJ shoved Nick the rest of the way into the car and closed the door. “He’s all yours Brenda. Have fun!”

 “I will.” replied Brenda with a laugh.

 AJ put his arm around Kat’s shoulder and walked back into the house with her. They had barely gotten through the front door when AJ swept Kat up into his arms and slammed the door with his foot.

 “What are you doing?” Kat asked with a giggle.

 “You have to ask? I was a good boy in the car but everyone’s gone now!” AJ answered and carried her down to her bedroom.

 Kat and AJ spent the next few hours in bed making up for lost time. Kat finally fell asleep wrapped into AJ’s arms with her head on his chest. He held onto her tightly, kissing the top of her head and he fell asleep a few minutes later.

 ----------

 AJ woke up a few hours later and noticed that Kat was still sound asleep. He thought it was odd since she usually woke up before him but he figured that she was really tired from getting everything ready. Sliding out of bed so as not to disturb her, he threw on his pair of jeans and decided to order some take out so that she wouldn’t have to cook anything. The food showed up about an hour later and AJ went in to wake her up.

 “Hey Sleeping Beauty, time to wake up.”

 He crawled into bed next to her and started to kiss her lightly. Her eyes started to flutter open and a smile appeared on her face.

 “Hey you.”

 “Hey yourself. I was starting to wonder if you were ever going to get up. Usually, you’re the one dragging me out of bed.”

 “Sorry.” Kat replied with a yawn. “I’m just tired lately with all the stuff going on. Plus, I missed sleeping with you. I feel like I sleep better when you’re around.”

 AJ smiled and kissed her again. “Good to know.”

 “It’s actually one of the many reasons I love you.”

 “I love you too Kat.”

She started to sit up and stretched her arms. “What do you want me to make for dinner?”

 “Already taken care of.”

 Kat’s eyes went big and she climbed out of bed quickly, throwing on one of AJ’s t-shirts. He could see the wheels turning in her mind and laughed out loud.

 “Relax sweetheart. I ordered take out. Pizza and salad ok?”

 “Definitely.” Kat said breathing a sigh of relief and sitting back down of the bed. “You had me scared for a minute.”

 AJ faked a look of hurt. “I can’t believe you still doubt my culinary skills.”

 Kat giggled looking at his expression. “I love you so much for so many different reasons AJ. It’s just that your cooking isn’t one of them.”

AJ laughed. “I guess I can accept that.”

 Kat pulled him up into a standing position and wrapped her arms around his waist. Leaning in, AJ kissed her lightly and then pulled her in so tightly that Kat found it hard to breathe. He increased the intensity and then lay her back down on the bed, straddling her. All he wanted to do in that moment was be as close as possible to her.

 “I’m sorry honey but I think dinner is going to have to wait.”

Chapter 45 by Kyrie

The weekend went by quickly and they suddenly found themselves at a Christmas Eve party at Kat’s family’s house. Since they were going to be there for Christmas too, Aunt Gina had suggested they stay downstairs in the two guest bedrooms instead of driving all the way home and back.

 AJ and Nick loved being around Kat’s family. They had accepted them the day they met and didn’t treat them any differently than anyone else. It was a good feeling to be normal and not have everyone around you treat you like the odd one out. Aunt Gina was terrific and welcomed them with open arms and Kat’s cousins acted like they’d known them their entire lives.

 Everyone was finishing up dinner when Chris suggested them pick a traditional Brady game to play since it was the holidays.

 “No way.” Brenda piped up. “I don’t know about everyone else but I don’t want to spend Christmas Eve in the hospital. Someone always gets hurt and we want to enjoy this holiday!”

 “I agree.” said Aunt Gina listening to all the guys groan. “Let’s just do the traditional presents and enjoy dessert.”

 “There’s dessert?” Nick asked.

 “Oh my god!” Brenda said. “Didn’t anyone feed you as a child?”

 “Yes they did.” Nick said with a grin. “But I like this cooking better.”

 Everyone started laughing and moved into the living room so they could open some presents. It was tradition that everyone got a Yankee swap gift to open on Christmas Eve and a Secret Santa gift to open on Christmas Day.

 They were about halfway through opening the presents when Aunt Gina suggested they take a dessert break. Brenda pulled Kat aside and asked if she could come out onto the porch with her. Nick and AJ watched them leave but didn’t really pay attention to what they were doing.

 “What’s up?” Kat asked shivering.

 “Your eyes.”

 “What about my eyes?”

 “Have you seen the circles under them?”

 “You’re overreacting Brenda. It’s just the lights in the room. My eyes are fine.”

 “How tired are you?”

 “Just a little but it’s been a long day.”

 “Liar. You’re calling the doctor.”

 “I am not.” Kat said getting frustrated with her friend. “It’s the only time we have off and I’m going to enjoy it with AJ. You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill. I’m going back inside.”

 Kat stormed back inside and went to sit on the couch. Both AJ and Nick noticed her come back in and saw the look in her eyes. Kat was never mad but she was definitely pissed about something this time.

AJ decided to talk to her before everyone else came back in to finish the presents.

 “What’s the matter Kat?” he asked quietly, sitting down next to her and slipping his arm around her shoulder.

 “Nothing. I’m fine.” Kat said sharply.

 “No, you’re not.” he replied. “I know you better than you think and you’re never angry. Something is going on.”

 “Nothing is going on. Can’t you just leave it alone?”

 AJ was shocked by her question and her tone. “Alright, I’ll leave it alone. For now. We’re going to talk about this at some point Kat.”

 “Not now.”

 “Ok, not now but…..”

 AJ didn’t get to finish his conversation because everyone was piling back in to finish the presents. He noticed that Brenda and Nick had moved across the room from them and when he gave Nick a look, his brother just shrugged his shoulders and mouthed “I have no idea”.

 They all finished opening their presents and then most of the family headed home for the night. Brenda tried to talk to Kat but she just hurried down to the bedroom where she and AJ were staying.

 “What’s up with you guys?” AJ asked.

 “Nothing.” Brenda said remembering her promise. “I think I’m just annoying her with the moving stuff. It’s not a big deal.”

 Neither AJ or Nick was buying it but they didn’t know how to get either woman to be a little more forthcoming.

 “Let’s just go to bed.” Brenda said and headed down to the other guest bedroom.

 “What the hell is going on?” Nick asked. “I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.”

 “I don’t know. Maybe Brenda’s right and Kat is just stressed about moving. Let’s just forget about it for tonight and see what happens tomorrow.”

 “Alright.” Nick said and started to walk away. “Hey, did you finish Kat’s present?”

 “Yup.” AJ beamed. “I’m hoping she likes it.”

 “I know she will.”

Chapter 46 by Kyrie

AJ woke up before Kat again and watched her sleeping peacefully on the other half of the bed. She had been sound asleep before he even made it to the room and he was hoping that whatever was bothering her last night would be gone by this morning. He really wanted to surprise her with the gift he had.

Kat finally stirred and turned over to find AJ watching her.

“Good morning.” she said with a smile. She saw the relief wash over AJ’s face and she felt bad for snapping at him last night after her talk with Brenda. “I’m sorry for last night. I didn’t mean to be such a jerk.”

“You weren’t. I know you’re stressed out and tired. I was just hoping that we could have a better day today.”

 Kat leaned over and kissed him. “I promise we will. Merry Christmas AJ.”

“Merry Christmas Kat. I love you.”

 “Love you too.”

 ------------------------

Kat pulled Brenda aside before everyone got there.

 “I’m sorry for lashing out at you last night. I know you’re concerned but I’m telling you that I’m fine. I don’t want to fight with you about it.”

 “I don’t want to fight either. You’re my best friend and I’m just concerned.”

 “I know but I promise you that I’m fine.”

 Brenda hesitated for a minute. “Ok, I’ll take you at your word.”

 “Thank you.” Kat said pulling her into a hug. “Love you.”

 “Love you too sweetie.”

 --------------------

 The family gathered for breakfast and then to exchange the Secret Santa gifts. Nick had gotten Brenda for the draw and Kat’s cousins started laughing when she opened the present.

 “What?” Nick asked.

 Brenda turned the card over and over again in her hand. “Seriously buddy? A gift card for a supermarket?”

 “I thought it was a good idea. That way you could stock up the next time I come.”

 “So the gift is kind of for you then?” Chris asked.

 Nick thought about it for a minute. “I guess so.”

 “At least the thought was there.” Kat said trying to make Nick feel better.

 “Thanks Kat.” Nick said blushing.

 Everyone finished opening their gifts. Brenda got Kat some candles and a necklace. AJ got Nick a new video game and Kat got her cousin Chris a new basketball hoop net.

 “That’s to replace the one you ripped the other day trying to act like Michael Jordan!”

 “Funny Kat. Real funny.”

 The family was getting up to leave when Aunt Gina called them all back.  There was a small box still under the tree.

 “Who’s that for?” Chris asked.

 “Why don’t you read the label instead of asking us?” Brenda replied.

 “Wow, you think you’re a comedian too!”

 Nick got down and pulled it out. “It’s for Kat.”

 “But I already got mine.”

 “Apparently Santa must have had the mistaken impression that you’ve been good this year!” Chris said putting in his opinion.

 “You’re an idiot.” Brenda added.

 Nick handed Kat the box and she pulled off the ribbon. When she opened it, she found a small black jewelry box. She just stared at it not knowing what to do.

 “Are you gonna open it or just stare at it?”

 “Shut up Chris.” Brenda hissed.

 Kat pulled open the lid of the box and inside lay a white gold ring with a large cushion cut aquamarine stone surrounded by smaller diamonds. She was so distracted by the gift that she didn’t notice that AJ had knelt down in front of her until she heard Brenda suck in a breath. Looking up, she saw his eyes start to water.

 “This one’s from me Kat.” He took a deep breath. “I always thought that I was living life and accomplishing everything I wanted to but that all changed when I met you. I was a complete jackass when we met but you were able to look past that and really see me. We’ve both been through our share of hard times and I’ve struggled through a lot. Sometimes I didn’t think I would be able to get through them but I know if you’re with me I can handle any challenges that come my way. You deserve someone who will make you the top priority in life and I promise you that no one will work harder than me to make you happy and make you feel loved. I know you’re the one that I want to share the rest of my life with. I’m only hoping that you will make me the luckiest man alive and tell me you’ll marry me. Will you let me be the one?”

 Everyone’s eyes had filled with tears by the time AJ finished speaking. Kat was so stunned by the ring and what he had said that she couldn’t even form words. She shook her head yes and flung her arms around AJ’s neck. He pulled her off the couch, off her feet and kissed her passionately. Neither one of them noticed everybody yelling and cheering. When they finally separated, AJ looked into her eyes and whispered “You’re the reason I’m so happy. Thank you for saying yes.” He pressed his lips against hers again and held her as tightly as possible. Nothing was going to matter after this.

 

 

Chapter 47 by Kyrie

AJ drove everyone back to Kat’s house once the celebration had started to wind down and he had to smile when he looked over and saw Kat staring at the ring. He truly was the luckiest guy in the world. Once they got back, Nick and Brenda left to return to her house and left AJ and Kat to enjoy the rest of their night.

 “Thank you AJ.” Kat said as they were settling onto the couch.

 “For what? I didn’t do anything.”

 “You did and you do. I’ve never had anyone love me the way you do or make me as incredibly happy. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

 AJ leaned in and kissed her. “You’re never going to have to find out. That ring you’re wearing means you’re stuck with me forever, till death do us part.”

 “I’m ok with that.” She stood up and reached out her hand.

 “What’s up?” he asked.

 “I think it’s time for a change. It’s time for me to show you exactly how much I love you.”

 She pulled him down the hallway and closed the bedroom door behind them.

 -----------------

 The foursome spent the next few days packing up the rest of Kat’s things and moving them over to Brenda’s house. She would have to be out right after New Year’s and Brenda had agreed that it would be easier for everyone to stay with her.  It would be fun to spend New Year’s Eve all together before the guys had to fly back again.

 “Kat, you know I love you right?” Nick asked.

 “Yes.” Kat said laughing.

 “Then I need to be honest with you. How much shit do you own?”

 Brenda started laughing. “Too much Nick, way too much!”

 Nick finally got the last box into the moving van and thumped down on the bumper. “You’re killing me! I thought moving all of J’s crap into his new place was a pain in the ass, but this is ten times worse.”

 AJ stopped and smacked him on the back of the head before loading the moving pads back into the van.

 “What was that for?” Nick yelped.

 “Telling me I have too much crap and for telling my fiancée that you love her!” AJ replied with a smile.

 “I was just being honest.” Nick said rubbing the back of his head.

“Thank you Nick. How about I make you dinner tonight as payment for all your hard work?” Kat chimed in with a grin.

 “Sounds good to me! Forget I mentioned how much stuff you have.” he responded, sprinting towards the house. “But I still love you!”

 “Watch it blondie!” AJ yelled walking towards Kat. He slipped his arm around her waist and noticed the circles under her eyes. “Still having trouble sleeping?”

 “No, just stretched thin. I’m nervous about ending work and moving across the country. I’ll probably sleep for 3 weeks once I finally get to your house.”

 AJ looked unconvinced. “Are you sure that’s all it is?”

 “Yup.” she said and started towards the house. “Let’s get dinner started.”

 

Chapter 48 by Kyrie

“I’m so glad we got all of stuff moved. Now we can just sit back and enjoy tonight.” Brenda said to Kat cleaning up the Chinese food that was a Kat/Brenda tradition for New Year’s.

 “Me too. It just sucks that AJ and Nick need to leave tomorrow.”

 Brenda put her arm around her friend’s shoulders. “I know, but keep in mind that in 3 weeks, you will be on a one way flight to California. You won’t have to worry about saying goodbye anymore.”

 “Except for saying goodbye to you.” Kat replied glumly. “You’ve always been there for me.”

 “And I still will be.”

 “Thousands of miles away.”

 “I didn’t say physically.” Brenda chuckled.

 “Thanks.” Kat smacked her friend in the arm. “Why can’t you move out there with me?”

 “Because I can’t. You know that.”

 “I know you keep saying that but I’m hoping I can change your mind.”

 “Good luck with that!”

 “Hey, are you guys gonna come watch the movie?” Nick asked poking his head around the doorway.

 “We’re coming.”

 “Good. You guys picked a romantic comedy and I don’t want to have to hold hands with J!”

 “I heard that!” AJ shouted from the living room.

 Nick grabbed Brenda’s hand and dragged her down the hallway. Kat laughed as she watched them leave. She wished that Brenda would just take a chance and move out there. Sighing, she started to walk towards the doorway when she felt the tightness in her chest start again.

 “Are you coming Kat?”

 “Be right there.” She gave herself a few seconds till it passed and then joined them for the movie.

 -------------------------

 “That was alright.”

 “Alright?” Brenda asked Nick. “You laughed your ass off.”

 Kat laughed as she curled up against AJ.  They’d been watching the two of them argue with each other throughout the movie.

 “How are you feeling?” AJ whispered quietly ignoring the bickering.

 “Good. I’m gonna miss this after you leave.”

 “It’s only three more weeks and then we’ll be together all the time.”

 “You might get sick of me.”

 “There’s not a chance in hell that will happen. I’ve waited for you for way too long and I plan on making memories with you for a very long time.”

 Kat smiled up at him and was about to say something when his cell phone rang. She watched AJ pull the phone out, look at the caller id and reject the call.

 “Who was that?”

 “Nobody important.” AJ answered sharply.

 His phone rang and he rejected it again. A few seconds later, it rang again.

 “You’d better answer it.” Kat said sitting up.

 It started ringing a few seconds after AJ rejected the call for the third time.

 “What the hell do you want?” AJ said finally answering, exasperated.

 Nick, Brenda and Kat all exchanged looks. They were surprised by his tone and they figured whoever it was, AJ wasn’t real happy to hear from them.

 “Is it Michelle?” Nick mouthed to AJ who nodded and proceeded to try and hang up.

 “I told you a long time ago that I was done and that you needed to go away. Leave me….”

 All the color drained from AJ’s face and his eyes got dark.

 “YOU”RE WHAT?” AJ screamed.

Chapter 49 by Kyrie

Nick, Brenda and Kat watched in horror as AJ turned purple and threw his phone across Brenda’s living room. He stormed out the back door almost breaking the glass when he slammed it closed.

 Brenda looked back and forth from Kat to Nick. “Which one of you is going out there to talk to him?”

 “Normally I would say you,” Nick said turning to Kat, “but I think I may need to do this one.”

 Kat just nodded. She had never seen AJ angry like this and she had no idea how to even start a conversation at the moment.

 Nick headed for the door and had barely made it through when Kat and Brenda heard him roar at Nick and tell him to go back inside. He ignored him and gently closed the door.

 “Pardon my French, but what the fuck was that all about?” Brenda whispered to Kat.

 “I have no idea. He hasn’t mentioned her since July when he ended things with her.”

 “I hate to be the one to say this but did he really end things with her?”        

 “Of course he did.” Kat snapped.

 Brenda held up her hands. “Ok. I was just asking.” She waited a few minutes before she spoke again. “Maybe she didn’t get it.”

 “Apparently not.” Kat said quietly. “Sorry for snapping at you but she’s a bitch and she messed with him so many times. I just wish she’d take the hint and disappear.”

 “She sounds like a psycho from what you’ve told me. She’s like that woman from Fatal Attraction. The bunny killer. AJ doesn’t have any pets does he?”

 Kat had to laugh at the comparison. “I could see her doing something like that. She’s nuts!”

 “Let’s hope it’s not too serious and Nick can talk to him.”

 “I hope so.”

 Both women just stared at the door keeping their fingers crossed.

 ---------------------------

 “Did you not understand when I said go back into the house!” AJ screamed at Nick.

 “Stop yelling.” Nick said quietly. “I get you’re mad for whatever reason but you just scared the hell out of your fiancée. She couldn’t even speak when I told her I would come out here to talk to you.”

 AJ let out a long sigh. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blow up like that.”

 Nick shrugged his shoulders. “I’ve seen you like this before but Kat and Brenda haven’t. I’d apologize to them not me.”

 Putting his head in his hands, AJ took a few deep breaths. “I wanted this week to be special for us. Now this shit happens.”

 “Exactly what is it that happened?”

 “She’s pregnant.” AJ replied quietly.

 Nick was stunned. “I’m sorry, I think there’s something wrong with my hearing. Did you just say she was pregnant?”

 “Yes.”

 Now Nick was getting loud. “How the fuck did that happen? You didn’t cheat on Kat did you?’

 Anger flashed in AJ’s eyes. “No I didn’t! You should fucking know me better than that by now!”

 “Then how did she get pregnant?”

 “Remember back in July, before Kat and I started dating? The day you caught her coming out of my house?”

 “Yeah……..oh shit. That means you did sleep together.”

 AJ just nodded his head.

 “Look AJ, the girl’s like a revolving door for guys. How do you know it’s even yours?”

 “Thanks Nick. Way to help.”

“I’m sorry but you can’t deny that the thought’s running through your mind too.”

 AJ had to admit that it was the first thing he had thought. “She offered to take a paternity test.”

 “Then I’m not buying anything that bitch says until she does it. She’s sneaky, conniving and crazy!”

 He had to agree with Nick. Michelle was anything but stable and he needed to make sure that the baby was actually his.

 “How do I tell Kat about this?” AJ asked. “What if she tells me she can’t handle this? What if I lose her?”

 Nick could tell his brother was truly scared at the prospect of Kat leaving.

 “She’s not going to. Kat loves you more than anything. She’s going to understand J but you need to tell her.”

 “What if she doesn’t trust me?”

 “Look J, this whole thing went down before you started dating. Kat knew about the situation and she still decided to invest in a relationship with you. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Talk to her. I think you’re worried for nothing.”

 AJ nodded his head. “Can you give me a few minutes and then ask her if she’ll come out and talk to me?”

 “Definitely.” Nick leaned over and hugged his brother. “You’re going to be ok and you and Kat will be fine. We’ll all figure this out together.”

Chapter 50 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Thank you to Sapphire, JordansLady and Hazel for the latest reviews!

“I’m sorry.” AJ whispered when he heard Kat come out and close the door.

 “It’s ok.” she replied sitting down next to him. “Want to tell me what’s going on?”

 “Michelle’s pregnant.”

 “Oh.”

 “It’s ok, you can leave.”

 Kat looked at him like he had five heads. “Leave? Are you kicking me out of my friend’s house?”

 AJ started to stand. “I’ll go.”

 “Why are you leaving?”

 Her question caused him to freeze. He was afraid to glance at her and see the look on her face.

 “Hey, I’m talking to you. Why are you leaving?” Kat asked again and stood up, her arms across her chest.

 “Because you didn’t sign up for this.”

 Kat sighed and reached out for his arm. He turned to look at her and he didn’t see what he was expecting. She held up her finger and pointed to the ring he had given her.

“Remember giving me this? This means I’ve signed up for whatever happens. You told me that you could get through anything if we’re together. Did you not mean that?”

 “Of course I meant it!”

 “Ok then.” She walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “Did you really think you were going to get rid of me that easily?”

 AJ didn’t think he could possibly love Kat any more than he did in that moment. He leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.

 “I really am a lucky man.”

 “I know.” Kat said laughing. “We’ll figure out what to do together.”

 “Thank you.”

 “You don’t need to thank me AJ. I love you. I accepted this ring for better or worse. Apparently, worse just decided to come first! Really, if you think about it, things can only go up from here.”

 AJ chuckled. “I love you Kat.”

 “Love you too.”

 ---------------------

 Nick and Brenda watched the pair from the living room.

 “Wow.” Nick said. “Kat’s taking it pretty well.”

 “Why wouldn’t she?” Brenda asked.

 “Um, cause she just found out some woman is pregnant with J’s child. Not exactly good news. Most women would be running for the hills.”

 “Then you don’t know Kat as well as you thought. She loves AJ and she’s never going to give that up. They’ll get through this. Kat would never walk away unless she thought she was hurting him.”

 “Well that’ll never happen. Nothing but losing her could hurt J.”

 “That’s definitely not going to happen. I have never seen Kat this happy. They belong together.”

 Nick came over, leaned down and kissed Brenda lightly. “Never thought you’d be the romantic type.”

 Brenda smiled. “I’m not usually but seeing them makes me change my mind.”

 

Chapter 51 by Kyrie

“I know I’ve said it a million times but I hate leaving you like this.” AJ said quietly.

 “I understand but there are things you have to take care of and I’ll be flying out in three weeks.” Kat said holding onto his waist. “It sucks but we’re going to get through it.”

 They had decided last night that AJ would fly back to California and demand a paternity test. Supposedly, Michelle was six months pregnant and they all wanted to make sure it was really AJ’s baby. Kat wouldn’t put it past her to pass off some idiot’s baby as AJ’s and try to get everything she could from the deal.

 “Thank you by the way for leaving Ray here with us.”

 AJ smiled. “I need to keep my most valuable person safe. The news will get out and I don’t want you to be hounded. He’s good at keeping the paparazzi at bay and he’ll be able to help you finish packing stuff up. I really didn’t want you flying out by yourself in a couple of weeks anyway.”

 “I can handle it.”

 “I know but you’re still looking tired and I want to make sure you’re ok. This whole situation is adding more stress and I don’t want you to get too worn down.”

 Kat leaned in and kissed him. “I’ll let you keep an eye on me for now.”

 “Thanks.” AJ laughed. They called Nick and his flight and he leaned in to kiss Kat again.

 “I love you baby.”

 “I love you too.”

She watched as they boarded their plane and then left with Ray to go back and finish up some things before work started the next day.

 ------------------------

 “Pizza’s here!” Kat shouted as she walked towards the door. “How much do I…….”

 “Hi sweetheart.”

 Kat was surprised to see her visitor when she opened the door.

 “Can I come in?” the woman pointed into the hallway. “I know I said I was ok with your relationship with AJ but things have changed and I think we need to talk.”

 Kat stepped backwards and let the woman into the house. She followed her into the kitchen and sat down at the table. She had no idea how much damage this one conversation was going to cause.

 --------------

 “Remember what I said. You have one week to make your decision. I don’t want to see AJ get hurt.”

 Kat nodded and showed the woman to the door. She closed it behind her and slid down onto the floor. Crying uncontrollably, she wrapped her arms around her head and placed it on her knees.

 Brenda and Ray found her there a few minutes later. They had heard the conversation and couldn’t believe what was happening. Brenda had wanted to run up and kick the woman out but Ray had held her back. He didn’t want to make the situation any worse.

 Brenda sank down next to her friend and wrapped her arms around her. “I’m so sorry Kat.”

 Kat’s body shook with sobs. “What am I going to do?”

 

Chapter 52 by Kyrie

The week deadline was two days away and Kat wasn’t any closer to figuring out what she was going to do. She had kept up her conversations with AJ but even he had started to notice that she was acting funny.

 “Hello?” Kat answered her phone without looking at the caller ID.

“Hi beautiful.”

 “Hi AJ.”

 “What’s up?”

 “Not much, just got some packing to do and some school work to work on. I probably shouldn’t stay on too long.”

 AJ sighed. “Look Kat, if I did something wrong, you need to tell me. We’ve always been honest with each other. And to be completely honest, you’re acting really strange.”

 “It’s nothing AJ. Just stressed and tired.”

 “Have you called the doctor?”

 “No, I will. Tomorrow ok? I really should get going ok. I love you.”

 “Love you…” was all AJ could get out before the call was disconnected.

 ----------------

 “What the fuck is going on over there?” AJ said to Nick who had been listening in on the conversation. They were trying to complete some recordings and AJ had taken a break to call Kat.

 “Maybe she’s just stressed like she said.”

 “You don’t believe that shit any more than I do. When have either one of us been so busy that we couldn’t talk to the other one? Something is definitely going on and I don’t like not knowing.”

 Nick just shrugged his shoulders. “Brenda hasn’t said anything to me about it.”

 “Would she?”

 “Yeah, if she thought it was going to cause you two issues. She’s pretty straightforward like that.”

 AJ sat there for a few minutes. “You don’t think she’s breaking up with me do you?”

“Absolutely not! You guys are terrific together and I know she loves you more than anything. Why do you think she’s packing up her whole life to come out here with you?”

 “I’m just worried. Something’s off.”

 “Let it go for now J. Let her finish what she needs to out there and if things are still going left when she gets here, then sit her down and figure something out.”

 “Easier said than done Nicky.”

 “I know but what else are you going to do?”

 “Nothing I guess.”

 Nick stood up and walked towards the booth. “Let’s just get this song done and we’ll head over to Bri’s for dinner.”

 “K.”

 -----------------------

 Brenda decided she had enough. This whole situation was driving Kat crazy and she was going nuts as a result. She entered the guest room and flopped down on the bed.

 “We need to talk.”

 “Not now Brenda. I have stuff ….”

 “Don’t give me that bullshit! Ever since that conversation you’ve stopped doing anything. You’ve given up packing, you’re barely functioning at work and when you get home, you come and hide in here. Something has to give Kat.”

 “What?! What has to give? My life is falling apart and I have no idea how to stop it!” Kat yelled.

 “Don’t yell at me! I didn’t do anything to you!”

 Brenda felt bad instantly as she watched Kat burst into tears and sink down to the floor with her head in her hands. She slid down next to her friend and pulled her into her arms.

 “I wish I could do something for you Kat. Anything. I want you to stop hurting.”

 “You can’t help me.” Kat said quietly through her tears. “No one can help me.”

 Brenda was so angry seeing her friend like this. She wanted to go find that woman and throttle her!

 “I will do whatever it takes. I’ll help you strangle whoever you want and I’ll even hide the body for you.”

 Kat chuckled a little. “I can actually see you doing that.”

 “Hell yes I would! I would do anything for you chica. I want to help you but you need to tell me how.” She paused for a few seconds. “How much longer do you have?”

 “Two days. I have to make my decision before then.”

 “Do you want some help with it?”

 “No. I think I already know what I have to do.”

 

Chapter 53 by Kyrie

Ray and Brenda sat at the table with Kat the next day just staring at her. Neither one could speak after what she had just told them. The decision had been made.

 “Are you sure this is really what you want to do?” Brenda asked. “You can change your mind, it’s not too late.”

 “I can’t change it. I’m doing what I need to do.”

 “I really think you should talk to J about this Kat.” Ray added. “I know you probably don’t want to hear this but I think you’re making a mistake.”

 Brenda was glad that Ray had said it and not her. She thought Kat was crazy and couldn’t fathom why she was doing it.

 “I have to Ray.”

 “J can figure something out. I’ve seen him do it before. Please reconsider and talk to him Kat. This doesn’t have to go down like this.” Ray pleaded with her.

 “You both heard what she said. She was crystal clear.”

 “I don’t care how clear she was!” Brenda yelled slamming her hand down on the table. “She’s wrong! You’re going to make a mistake Kat!”

 “I’m not going to watch anything happen because of me. I know you don’t agree with me but this has to be done.” Kat turned to face Ray. “I need to ask you one favor.”

 -----------------

 Ray got off the plane in California and Marcus met him at the airport.

 “You still haven’t told me what you’re doing here. I thought J asked you to stay out there and watch over Kat.”

 “She made me come back.”

 “She made you? Dude really? You’re three times her size! J’s gonna be pissed when he hears you came back without her.”

 Ray just nodded.

 Marcus pulled him to a stop. “What’s going on?”

 “Nothing.” Ray said shaking his head.

 “Man you’re an awful liar!”

 “Can you just take me over to his house?”

 “I will but there is no way in hell I’m going in there with you. I’ve seen J pissed and he’s not going to be happy about this.”

 “You have no idea.” Ray murmured under his breath.

 Twenty minutes later, the two men arrived at the house. Marcus reminded Ray that he was just gonna drop him off and then he was on his own.

 “Thanks Marcus.” Ray said stepping out.

 Marcus laughed. “You’re not gonna be thanking me when J gets ahold of you.”

 Ray ignored the comment and slammed the door. He walked up to the house and rang the doorbell.

 “Come in.” he heard AJ yell from inside. He let himself into the hallway and made his way down to the living room where AJ was watching TV.

 “Hey man.” AJ said looking up. “How are…..Wait a second. Why are you here?” AJ asked after realizing Ray was not supposed to be in his living room for another three weeks.

 Ray just stood there.

 “Hello, Earth to Ray!” AJ said walking over and waving his hand in front of his face. “I thought you were going to be with Kat. You can’t just leave her alone like that. The paparazzi……..”

 Ray thrust an envelope towards AJ. “I’m really sorry J. So sorry.”

 

Chapter 54 by Kyrie
Author's Notes:

Thank you to Sapphire, Jordanslady, Hazel, Rainbowbrite and BeastieBarb (my newest reviewer!) for all the feedback. This last piece ends this chapter and story but I am starting the sequel and hope to have the first chapter up tonight!

Dear AJ,

I’m sorry. You can’t imagine how sorry I am. I’ve had time to think and I’m not sure that me moving out to California right now is a good idea.

 You and Michelle are about to be parents and I know that you’re going to want to be in your baby’s life 24/7. We’ve talked about how much you’re looking forward to being a dad and I don’t want to take that from you. You shouldn’t have to worry about splitting your time between your child and me. The situation would get stressful and I don’t want you to resent me if I held you back.

I am sending this letter with Ray because I know it will get to you. Please don’t try to come to me. By the time you get this, I’ll have left Boston. I chose not to tell Brenda or my family where I’ll be so you don’t have to bother to ask them.

 I want you to have the best relationship you can have with your baby. I know you don’t believe it, especially after reading this, but I do love you and I only want what’s best for you. Please be safe and don’t let this set you back.

 I truly am sorry.

 Kat



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